To my family and friends,
This is just to give some information on what on earth I've been up to the last 7 years.....
Most of you know that I've been living in South Africa, then Kenya and throughout this time I've been working for a not-for-profit called Natural Justice; a small team of lawyers that fights for the marginalised to have a say in the decisions that affect them and their environments.
Since moving to Kenya, I've seen the country push hard to develop and this is focused on mining and big infrastructure projects. The people we work with are constantly calling for social services, including infrastructural developments but, unfortunately, most of them are ignored when the projects are rolled out. This results in them bearing the brunt of the impacts.
Impacts are at their worst when the laws - designed to protect people from this very thing - are completely ignored. They're ignored because the government agencies either don't know the laws themselves, are spread too thin on the ground or are paid off. And governments and companies get away with it because most affected people don't know the law.
And whilst its great when lawyers from Nairobi - and even Adelaide - help them - it doesn't really change this perpetual power imbalance. So - my team and I recently started to train and support community members get well versed with the law and legal systems.
We now have a growing team of community legal officers - who work with us full-time. They are from and based in the communities affected by these projects. Day in, day out they support people who have: been forcibly removed from their homes; lost access to their farming or fishing areas; been cut off from their only sources of water; and suffer from persistent pollution. They work closely with the affected people so that they learn how to address their challenges without us - if the problems come up in the future.
Our community legal officers aren't saying that development isn't needed nor that every decision must go the way of the community. They do, however, ask that they be treated fairly, with dignity and that developments do not ignore the very people they are meant to uplift.
The team works on a tight budget - through the support of different international funders. Any small donation you can make will go straight to supporting their important work.
If you're interested, you can also learn more about Natural Justice at www.naturaljustice.org