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Vivek Maru and Namati: The barefoot lawyers brigade

(Credit: Namati)

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Vivek Maru, an activist attorney and CEO of an organization called Namati. Maru is one of this year’s social entrepreneurs recognized at the Skoll World Forum for his efforts to provide justice and equity to some of the most disenfranchised people.

More than 4 billion people on Earth exist without the protections many of us take for granted – the rule of law. In some cases, the laws and regulations do exist but the most disenfranchised people remain unaware of their rights or have nobody to represent them against powerful interests in government, industry or other levers controlled by the rich and powerful.

Vivek Maru, head of Namati and a Skoll World Forum award winner for social justice reform

Vivek Maru, head of Namati and a Skoll World Forum award winner for social justice reform

In 2011, Maru created Namati, an organization that trains and deploys paralegals – aka ‘barefoot lawyers’ – to serve these poor and often abused communities in eight countries. An attorney trained in the United States with family roots in India, Maru graduated from the Harvard College and Yale Law School. Before establishing Namati, he co-founded and co-directed the Sierra Leonean organization Timap for Justice, a similar effort that provides basic justice services free-of-charge to the country’s communities. He also served in the World Bank’s Justice Reform Group, focusing on rule of law reform and governance primarily in West Africa and South Asia.

But fighting to provide justice to the most marginalized groups often require Maru and his team to challenge inequitable systems that are often upheld for and by the rich and powerful. In some cases, as Maru details in the interview, the challenges these community paralegals face can even be deadly.

But before the interview, our resident KPLU jack-of-all-trades Gabe Spitzer and East Coast Correspondent Tom Murphy took a gander around the stories bubbling in the Humanosphere. They discussed the more-than-semantics debate on whether to use the terms “social enterprise” or “social entrepreneurship,” the World Bank’s concerning private water investments and Mexico’s worrying treatment of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.