Community-Based Advice Offices: Expanding Access to Justice in South Africa

As South Africans celebrate over 20 years of democracy against the backdrop of perhaps the most progressive Constitution in any modern democracy, it of course is a matter of considerable disquiet that we remain one of the most unequal societies in the world. For many, the Constitution may represent nothing more than a paper victory yet to be converted into reality in their lives. The diagnostic report of the National Planning Commission affirms the divided nature of our society and the measures required to address this. In a rules based society committed to equality, the poor and marginalised are
disproportionately likely to become targets of crime and exploitation, yet their restricted access to information and material resources limit their ability to seek appropriate redress.

As an indigenous grant-making organisation, FHR’s human rights-based approach to development supports civil society organisations in delivering on mandates that promote participation, non-discrimination and empowering the poor to demand accountability. In keeping with these objectives, FHR has been supporting Community-based Advice Offices since the mid-1990s as our flagship programme. The project is an initiative of FHR in partnership with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and was a part of the Access to Justice and Promotion of Constitutional Rights Programme
(Strengthening Civil Society).

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"“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

Barbara Gittings, American activist for LGBT equality