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In the developing world, where education is not guaranteed for all and literacy rates are low, billions of people are denied their legal rights simply because they have no access to information about their rights. Enter the barefoot lawyers, who teach people in their communities how to make the law work for them. BRAC (the one-time Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is the world’s largest non-governmental provider of legal aid, whose Barefoot Lawyers share their expertise. After graduating from BRAC’s crash course in law, the all-female band of paralegals teach others in their community how to protect themselves from bribery or false arrest by asking the right questions and knowing what a real arrest warrant looks like. The key to a functioning democracy are laws that protect the citizenry from abuses of power, but if a population is unaware of these legal protections, the protections might as well be null and void. Basic knowledge of legal rights could help widows receive inheritances, settle arguments over dowries, or prevent unlawful detention and exploitation. Legal literacy could help a farmer keep his land and property, or help a community receive compensation after their land and water has been devastated by a mining project. Many go unprotected by the law simply because they do not know how to put it to use. For these reasons, and for the bigger picture of empowering marginalized people to lift themselves out of poverty, organizations like BRAC think legal empowerment is important enough that it should be one of the Millennium Development Goals. Spreading awareness of legal entitlements enables people to access financial programs which could break the cycle of extreme poverty for families who take advantage. As more people are empowered by the law, which is designed to be of service to all citizens regardless of their economic standing, the idea that all people deserve clean water, food, and shelter as a basic human right will grow. – Jennifer Bills Sources: BRAC Blog