I, however, was not ready for the immense growth I was about to experience. Gradually, the new legal and research fellows began getting involved in the various programmes.
Having been an intern at Natural Justice in 2018, I had had a chance to work only partially on the Extractives and Infrastructure Programme and so the other programmes were quite new. However, I can recall that among my first assignments I was asked to work on the submissions to the Task Force that was looking into the implementation of the judgment of the African Court on the issue of the Ogiek Community. Now, this seems pretty straightforward to some.
Well, no! Natural Justice, as its name suggests – Lawyers for the Communities and the Environment – took on the “community approach” where representatives of the Ogiek Community came to our offices and brought us up to speed with what was happening on the ground and highlighted what the community desired from the Taskforce. This, therefore, helped us tailor our submissions based on what the communities wanted.
What made me famous at the Nairobi Office (well, not “famous”, haha!) was working with the team on the Access to Information Letters to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), various ministries and the Office of the Ombudsman. Some moments were exciting – whenever I would get a response – and other times, well, the opposite. Now back to NJ’s community approach, I noticed most of the letters were written by the communities themselves and we would just deliver them: a plus! This, I would say, grew my interpersonal skills as I interacted with various government officials and, of course, it grew my patience levels!
As we were winding up our year in 2019, I had a chance to visit Lamu with four of my colleagues and I believe this trip went a long way towards putting into perspective what Natural Justice’s work looked like. We met community members who, I could tell, were knowledgeable with the law and the procedures and, before the end of those meetings, I could tell why. The Senior Programme Officer and the Senior Community Legal Empowerment Officer took time to explain to them what was happening regarding the Lamu Port in Kiswahili.
I found this unique, the legal empowerment approach! One of the communities had made submissions on the Lamu Port City Integrated Master Plan – impressive! I had an opportunity to explain to the community on the progress of the Master Plan and a number of the Access to Information Letters – it was so fulfilling and, at the same time, made me resolve to be more aggressive in every task I was given to help the communities.
I cannot mention the trip to Lamu without mentioning the two-hour speed boat ride to one of the communities in Kiwayu Island – nerve-racking! The organisation was in its initial stages of working with the community and it made me learn how it is important to build trust with the communities first before engaging further. We also visited communities near the Lamu Port and this gave us the real picture of their issues and, hence, we were able to articulate them better.
I didn’t take the Legal Writing and Drafting Course in school as it was an elective. Working at Natural Justice grew my legal writing and drafting skills. I got to review and make submissions on bills, laws and regulations and also worked on drafting various court documents. This was possible with the help of the senior staff and this brings me to the fact that Natural Justice works as a TEAM. Despite people being in charge of specific programmes, they would always work across all the other programmes.
This would not be a complete reflection article if I do not talk about the social culture in Natural Justice. From the lunch-hour sessions full of fun stories and laughter, the birthday and wedding celebrations, to the bonds formed during the Natural Justice Retreat, Natural Justice has such a warm culture and people genuinely care beyond the deliverables of work. Natural Justice has an excellent work culture – it feels like home.
There are so many memories that I cannot pen all of them down, but I am so glad that I got to work with the amazing and passionate team at Natural Justice.