Goya Lamartine Da Costa E Silva
This profile was prepared when Goya Lamartine Da Costa E Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Goya Lamartine believes deeply in the importance of law in the exercise of democracy. He learned at an early age that a lack of access to legal knowledge creates obstacles in the paths of citizen groups organizing in rural areas to improve their living and working conditions. After encountering these difficulties in case after case on which he offered legal advice while an intern at the Salvador Archdiocese's Commission on Justice and Peace in 1988, it occurred to Goya that the most effective way to ensure respect for basic legal protections in rural communities was to train the residents themselves in the skills they would need to know and defend their rights. He has since spent the past seven years developing and refining a systematic course that introduces people with limited formal education to the basic concepts and techniques of legal practice. Goya's program, aimed specifically at rural communities, translates complex legal jargon into accessible terminology. His program succeeds in demystifying the law's definition of the parameters of state-society relations, enabling community workers, human rights activists, and labor organizers to frame their demands in effective ways that achieve results. His initiative differs from others in the area of training for citizenship because it offers systematized legal content, logically ordered and fully adapted to the reality of the communities in which it is applied. The ultimate value in Goya's approach derives from his ability to facilitate a process that turns downtrodden victims into citizens capable of participating fully in a dynamic of dialogue and debate that turns the rhetoric of democracy in rural areas into a reality.