Meet our advisory board: Vidhu Vedalankar

10 August 2021, by Greg Kempe

The four members of the Laws.Africa advisory board support the organisation through guidance and expertise.

One of our board members is Ms Vidhu Vedalankar. Vidhu has worked in a variety of roles focusing on building the capacity of the state to deliver services at scale to the public, in particular to the most vulnerable and marginalised people of our communities. Most recently she served as the CEO of Legal Aid South Africa managing the delivery of professional legal services through a national footprint to reach clients thus increasing access to justice for millions of South Africans.

In this Q&A, Vidhu explains why she joined the Laws.Africa advisory board and her belief in access to African legal information.

Access to African legal information is important in a context where the majority of people do not have access to the legal information that governs their daily lives. This relates to people understanding their rights and obligations as established in laws and to use these to protect, defend and assert their rights as well as understand and live by the obligations that it creates for them. It is important for people to have the legal information to understand how to access basic services from the government amidst the maze of government bureaucracy. It is important for people to have access to information to hold the government to account and to require them to perform to fulfil their obligations. Access to legal information is at the core of building an effective and functioning democracy in which law and order is established and is the norm for both the government and the people.

Why do you support Laws.Africa?

Legal information is not easily available to people in most countries on the continent. I support Laws.Africa because they provide an essential service of increasing free access to legal information in the form of laws at national and local level which is essential for all persons, in particular poor and vulnerable persons to have access to, to act in terms of and within the law. Having one point of access for national and local laws provides ease of access and cuts through the bureaucracy of government services which is often difficult to navigate.

The continuing conflict in many countries, increasing authoritarian rule, entrenching of power by powerful elites once they are elected, silencing opposition and not including communities in decision making beyond elections continues to marginalise communities and exclude them from decisions made that affect their lives. In this context it is important to establish more participative forms of democracy in which communities continue to be included in governing between elections and are involved in deciding on matters that affect their everyday lives. The sharing of information empowers the public to meaningfully participate in building such a participative democracy. The important work of sharing legal information also contributes to understanding the rule of law and to make greater use of legal avenues to address matters that affect them to complement their other means of taking up their matters with governments.

You can read more about Ms Vedalankar, and our other advisory board members, on our About Us page.