Justice Defenders
All over the world, people end up in prison in an act defined as “justice.” Over 10 million people represent the worldwide prison population. According to the NIC, its rates are highest in countries such as Seychelles, the United States, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turkmenistan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of these countries have class-based systems that produce poverty and subsequently an overrepresentation of their poor populations in prison. Prisons are such a normalized part of most of the world’s justice systems that many do not even question whether the institution is just or not. The African nonprofit Justice Defenders is fighting the very institution that people know as the “Prison Industrial Complex.”

Poverty and Prisons

Prison systems all over the world disproportionately target poor people and incarcerate them in horrendous conditions. In the prisons of Africa, which many consider the worst in the world, The International Journal on Human Rights has reported that “prisoners often lack space to sleep or sit, hygiene is poor, and food and clothing are inadequate.” This human rights violation is an injustice in a system supposedly designed to implement justice.

Additionally, the journal highlighted how all people, but specifically women, incarcerated in African prisons are “overwhelmingly poor and uneducated” and thus “sexism is apparent in the criminalization and sentencing of certain conducts.” This targeting and sentencing of all people, but disproportionately women, is again unjust to poor communities. The journal importantly noted how the poor often suffer detainment longer because they cannot pay for an early release. In other words, detained wealthy people often pay their way out of the system. This is a luxury that poor people do not have, therefore causing a higher representation in prison systems not only across Africa but across the world.

Defending Justice

There are, and have been, many efforts to combat the injustices of the Prison Industrial Complex globally. However, one nonprofit based in Uganda is providing education through the system in order to fight it. Justice Defenders, headquartered in Kampala, Uganda, includes a varied membership of all kinds of people related to the justice system, from judges and allies to prisoners and ex-convicts. According to Justice Defenders’ website, it strives to use education as a means to tackle the injustices of the system. Since poor people lacking education represent a larger population in prisons, providing imprisoned people with adequate education is imperative.

Justice Defenders creates social and faith groups for imprisoned people in addition to providing legal protection and representation in trials. While working against the injustices of Africa’s Prison Industrial Complex, Justice Defenders also strengthens this community by partnering globally. It is a registered charity in the United Kingdom and addresses mass incarceration in the United States. By creating a strong global movement, Justice Defenders attacks injustice at every level of the prison system and fights for a world free of poverty.

Hope for the Hopeless

Poor people disproportionately represent prison populations across the world, and Justice Defenders is working to right this injustice. One of the most profound statements that the nonprofit has shared is a quote from American lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who argued that “the opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.” Luckily, groups like this nonprofit are on the front lines, fighting for justice.

– Sebastian Fell
Photo: Flickr

the rule of lawIn many countries around the world, the judicial process comes with a hefty price tag. As a result, impoverished communities often lack access to the legal services and assistance necessary to achieve justice. To ensure these communities can access the judicial process, legal organizations are expanding their manpower internationally to provide legal tools and programs to people in need. Below are five legal organizations addressing global poverty by promoting the rule of law.

  1. Lawyers without Borders (LWOB) – This organization offers pro bono legal services to communities in need around the world. These services often include legal advice and assistance to promote the rule of law. Additionally, the organization helps train future members of the trial system through its “Support Through Trial Advocacy Training” (STTAT). This includes judges, prosecutors, magistrates and more. LWOB takes participants step-by-step through the trial process to better understand legal proceedings. To ensure as many communities benefit from STTAT training as possible, LWOB has translated course materials into a plethora of languages including “Swahili, Amharic, Creole, Nepali, French and Spanish.”
  2. Lawyers Against Poverty – This organization works to promote social justice in different countries. Composed of volunteer lawyers from around the world, Lawyers Against Poverty provides legal assistance and donations to communities in need. For example, in 2020 the organization donated 30,000 pounds to help women living in Jordan file legal proceedings for domestic violence during the pandemic. Additionally, the organization has donated 10,000 pounds to provide refugees in Greece with legal assistance filing asylum cases. To date, the organization has donated time and money to Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Greece to broaden important access to judicial systems.
  3. TrustLaw (The Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Created in 2011, this program came into being as part of the Thomson Reuter Foundation’s aim to provide pro bono legal services to worldwide communities. By connecting non-governmental organizations with law firms, TrustLaw provides a plethora of communities with legal assistance and training courses. In fact, TrustLaw has supplied legal assistance worth about $172 million since its creation. Additionally, the program works on three “areas of impact” to promote the rule of law. First, TrustLaw encourages members to devise solutions to climate change. Next, TrustLaw works to end modern slavery by conducting legal research on the issue. Finally, TrustLaw works to ensure women’s rights are upheld and respected on the international stage.
  4. International Development Law Organization (IDLO)In 1988, the International Development Law Organization was uniquely formed to serve as a global intergovernmental organization that promoted the rule of law. It has impacted more than 90 different countries worldwide. Additionally, IDLO works in regions like Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. In addition to promoting the rule of law, the organization also focuses on women’s rights, economic sustainability, peace and democracy, public health, climate change and access to justice. The organization focuses on U.N. goals as well in its efforts toward sustainability.
  5. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) – A nonprofit, the Global Legal Action Network dedicates itself to injustice and holding countries that violate human rights accountable. To gain international influence, the nonprofit partners with local grassroots organizations and civil society leaders in countries around the world. In addition to addressing human rights violators, the organization also deals with legal issues. These include issues tied to war, immigration and economic justice. More recently, GLAN has partnered with the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) to expose how the Chinese government mistreats Uyghurs in concentration camps.

The five legal organizations mentioned above address global poverty by offering donations, legal services and assistance to communities in need. This way, poor communities are not disadvantaged in terms of accessing different judicial systems around the world. Overall, these legal organizations ensure justice is available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, sex, ethnicity or nationality.

Chloe Young
Photo: Unsplash

Khabar LahariyaSince 2002, Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper in the northeastern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, has been changing perspectives and advocating for justice. With a team of all women, Khabar Lahariya takes on corrupt authority figures and unjust social systems, fighting for change in the communities it covers and the country overall.


Khabar Lahariya grew out of a literacy program for women. In the program, participants wrote about topics in their communities that mattered to them. When the program came to a close, the women wanted to continue these reading and writing efforts, thus prompting the creation of a weekly newspaper in 2002 called Khabar Lahariya. The paper was in print up until the mid-2010s and then moved online. In 2020, The Story newsletter reported that Khabar Lahariya had grown from 80,000 newspaper readers to around 5 million viewers every month on YouTube. Currently, the new digital news platform has 540,000 YouTube subscribers.

Exposing Social Issues and Injustice

Khabar Lahariya’s staff comes from heavily marginalized groups. All of the staff are women, but they are also Dalits (the lowest social caste in India) as well as Muslims and indigenous Adivasis. By publishing a newspaper, Khabar Lahariya’s staff have resisted oppressive systems and are also able to earn an income by working for the paper. The staff members receive compensation and their ongoing training serves to strengthen the newspaper even further while improving the literacy rate among women.

The digital newspaper provides a way for its staff to expose social issues and injustice. “We expose corruption and the way that public money gets handed around, talking about what kind of welfare schemes are being rolled out, at what point and in what area. How do those actually pan out on the ground?” Disha Mullick, the paper’s co-founder, explained in a 2020 interview with The Story. One of Khabar Lahariya’s most recent stories covers India’s rural employment scheme, which has failed many people, leaving them struggling to get by with little work.

Igniting Change

Additionally, Khabar Lahariya does “a lot of reporting around human rights for gender and caste,” Mullick tells The Story. The paper explores questions such as, “Why do certain crimes have impunity? How does violence against women happen? What exactly does it mean? How does it change?” Khabar Lahariya’s reporting highlights the voices of survivors of violence as well.

The Khabar Lahariya team’s work has resulted in tangible change. People are able to hold their government accountable and demand the services rightfully due to them. Road improvements and school constructions are tangible reflections of this success. Perpetrators of sexual violence face punishment and a cultural shift is forming surrounding sexual violence as people no longer view it as a crime that perpetrators should get away with.

However, not everyone supports Khabar Lahariya’s work. When the paper first began, the women were met with pushback from their husbands. Moreover, women working for Khabar Lahariya face death threats with mobs visiting their houses.

Looking Forward

Despite the challenges, Khabar Lahariya continues to flourish, gaining international attention along the way. In 2014, it won Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum Award for its community journalism. Most recently, in 2021, it won the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. Also this year, a film about Khabar Lahariya called “Writing With Fire” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Khabar Lahariya’s staff work hard to transform their communities and society as a whole. The film will hopefully spread the word about their continuing efforts. “With this movie coming out, there will be a lot of impact on people,” lead journalist Meera says in the film’s Q&A session with the Sundance Institute. She expresses that the film may bring about negative consequences for Khabar Lahariya, but it may also “have a great impact on the society, because people would know a lot about them, a lot about journalism, and also, the strength that they have.”

– Victoria Albert
Photo: Flickr

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Honor KillingsThe concept appears as a relic from a distant, barbarous past: “honor killings” of young women. In contemporary Russia’s Northern Caucasus, however, honor-based violence remains a persistent scourge. Honor killings are premeditated murders of young women by close male relatives, committed under the guise of restoring or preserving a family’s “honor.” Honor crimes occur when a woman is perceived to have overstepped established sexual and gender-based boundaries.

 An Underreported Injustice

Incited by rumors, slander and outright falsehoods, honor-based attacks victimize women for trivial, seemingly inconsequential acts. These acts could include a skirt hemmed above the knees, a wayward glance, or an air of obstinance. These murders are generally planned by more than one family member, and carried out in many different forms such as including stonings, forced suicides and acid burnings.

A 2018 report by the human rights lawyer Yulia Antonova found that from 2012 to 2017, there were at least 36 reported honor killings in the Northern Caucasus. That number only includes, however, documented and cross-referenced honor killings. The majority of the killings go unreported, un-investigated, or are dismissed by the authorities. Therefore, there is a lack of accurate data on this type of violence in not only the Northern Caucasus, but the entire world. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women are murdered every year by relatives in the name of protecting family “honor.”

 The Intersections between Violence, Gender Inequality and Family Ties

Honor-based violence is a tool to perpetuate gender inequality and a manifestation of female sexuality being coerced and curtailed through brutality. These killings are not spurred by tradition, custom, or sharia law, but rather are motivated by the ambitions of the individual or group. According to Svetlana Anokhina, a journalist and human rights activist in the Northern Caucasus, men hide behind skewed notions of honor to justify cold-blooded murder. These killings are meant to convey the control men wield over women, determining life or death through extra-judicial, subjective reasoning.

The state implicitly condones honor-violence by failing to adequately prosecute cases involving honor killings. These killings are rarely reported, and even the exceptions hold no guarantee that the cases will be investigated and sent to trial. Indeed, another 2018 report found that over a period from 2008 to 2017, only 14 cases involving honor killings went to court. Defendants are often protected by the courts, who justify honor killings by arguing that the accused was acting under a state of emotional duress.

In addition to the state, family members also will frequently protect the murderer, unwilling or unable to give their relative over to the authorities. The family may also rally behind the murderer, believing the honor killing has enhanced their social status in the community.

Thus, the victims of honor killings oftentimes do not get justice or retribution, and the cycle of violence is allowed to continue.

Making a Change

Over the last decade non-governmental organizations, such as the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA), have sought to coordinate international groups working to end the scourge of honor-based violence. HBVA is a digital resource center promoting awareness of honor killings through research and documentation, enabling experts to better understand the extent of the issue. In part due to HBVA’s research, the international estimate of 5,000 honor killings per year is now thought to be grossly short of reality. HBVA has also created an international network of experts, activists and NGOs intent on using a collaborative approach to educate the public about and support the victims of honor killings. The training HBVA provides has improved responses to instances of honor violence in migrant communities in Europe and North America.

Honor killings continue to be an underreported and misunderstood phenomenon in many corners of the world. Victims of honor killings are subject to arbitrary fits of violence, intended to perpetuate gender inequality. This form of violence is vastly underreported, with many killings either ignored or lightly prosecuted by authority figures. There are, however, reasons to be optimistic that honor killings in the Northern Caucasus and other parts of the world are becoming less socially acceptable. Non-governmental organizations seeking to end honor killings are working across international borders to pool resources and data, giving hope that this form of violence will one day be better understood, more thoroughly documented and less frequent.

Angus Gracey

Photo: Flickr