CWEALF’s ’She Leads Justice’ Project to expand legal advocacy services and implement peer advocacy program to build leadership skills and engage clients in systemic change.
Going to court can be a confusing experience for anyone, even if you are fortunate enough to be represented by an attorney. However, for many low-income families who cannot afford legal representation, navigating the complex civil and family court systems is even more challenging. There has been an increasing number of self-represented parties in Connecticut, with twenty-five percent in civil matters and up to eighty-five percent in family law cases. For the thirty-five percent of Greater Hartford residents who primarily speak Spanish, language is another barrier. This legal justice gap means low-income residents forgo their legal right to adequate representation, often forcing them to represent themselves, which can have devastating and long-term consequences for them and their families.
The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) is one of the few organizations in Connecticut that provides both free legal education and advocacy to any individual in need, particularly low-income women. To support these vital services and help close the legal justice gap, the Hartford Foundation has awarded a three-year, $200,000 grant to CWEALF for its ’She Leads Justice’ Project. The project expands the organization’s bilingual legal advocacy service. In addition, the project creates a peer advocacy program that builds leadership skills, increases the availability of legal information, and engages clients to become advocates for legal education and community change.
She Leads Justice is the first legal education program in Greater Hartford to invest in the development of marginalized women as legal advocates.
“The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund is thrilled to launch the She Leads Justice Project with support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving,” said Kate Farrar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. “Our bilingual community advocacy services are in high demand in Greater Hartford, due to limited access to the legal justice system, especially by low-income women of color. In turn, our former clients have long sought ways to give back to their communities. She Leads Justice will be a powerful force to help women build their skills and become advocates for others in their own communities.”
Each year, CWEALF serves more than 350 clients in Greater Hartford. The peer advocacy program fulfills a long-time interest CWEALF clients have expressed to become effective community-level advocates. The project relies on the expertise of CWEALF’s legal education program staff, interns and volunteers with Spanish language skills, as well as strong community partnerships. The Foundation’s funds will primarily support staff positions and stipends for peer advocates. CWEALF will seek additional grants and donations to leverage the Foundation’s funding for the project.
“Over the years, the Hartford Foundation has made a variety of investments to expand Greater Hartford residents’ access to legal representation,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Investments Officer Michael Wotorson. “The She Leads Justice Project is a critically important response to the justice gap created by significant social and economic barriers faced by low-income women in our city and in our region.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $758 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.