The changing face of justice, from Illinois to Ecuador

In India, justice for the speakers of a minority language is more possible now that India’s Constitution has been translated into Santali. As in Illinois and Ecuador, improving visibility for minorities also draws attention to causes they care about through their own lens.

1. Ecuador

Two Indigenous activists from Ecuador won the Goldman Environmental Prize for protecting ancestral territory from mining. Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narváez of the Cofán community earned the prestigious award for their use of drones and camera traps to document gold mining on Indigenous land. Their work secured a legal victory in a provincial court that led to the protection of 79,000 acres of rainforest.

Why We Wrote This

In our progress roundup, elevating lesser seen people can have a ripple effect, increasing representation for others who go unnoticed. A state’s high court appoints its first Black female judge, and a pair of Indigenous activists wins an international award.

Sometimes referred to as the “Green Nobel Prize,” the award honors “ordinary people who take extraordinary actions to protect our planet” by recognizing environmental activists from each inhabited continent. Ms. Narváez, for instance, was the first woman to join the community’s land patrol, though her activism was initially met with criticism from local men and women.

“The many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, vice president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. But these leaders “give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity.”
Sources: BBC, Goldman Environmental Foundation

2. United States

Lisa Holder White was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to serve. Ms. Holder White, a Republican, already made history in 2001 when she became the first Black associate judge in the state’s 6th Judicial Circuit Court. In the past year, 40% of new state supreme court justices were people of color, including Justice Patricia Guer­rero, the first Latina on the California Supreme Court, and Justice Nancy Waples, a Chinese American and the first woman of color to serve on the Vermont Supreme Court.

Progress toward representative state courts is slow. Overall, just 18% of state supreme court justices are nonwhite. Men hold 59% of those seats, there are no Black justices in 28 states, and nine states have only one woman on their highest court. “Diverse representation in courts helps instill public trust in the judicial system,” writes Angela Robinson, a retired judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, in an Op-Ed. “When citizens see themselves reflected, they are more likely to trust the process and the outcomes.”
Sources: Black Enterprise, Brennan Center for Justice

3. United Kingdom

Henry Nicholls/Reuters/File
Ella Shone serves a customer from her mobile shop called the Top Up Truck in London. She delivers packaging-free cooking oil, shampoo, and grains to people’s homes. More supermarkets in the United Kingdom are now offering in-store refill stations to reduce packaging waste.

Refill shops are gaining ground in the United Kingdom. As plastic waste becomes an increasingly damaging problem around the world, more people are looking to avoid food packaging, which usually ends up in landfills or polluting the ocean. In the past few years, hundreds of refill shops around the U.K. have opened using a zero-waste model, allowing customers to access goods in bulk, and then take them home in their own reusable containers.

The refill system began in small stores, but larger supermarkets are following in step. Asda opened the U.K.’s largest refill store in York last year, while Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, and others will have a company called Unpackaged run refill stations in their stores by the end of 2022. Waste-free shoppers who can afford slightly higher prices are fueling the trend. “I shop here because I want to cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also a lovely experience,” said Emily Drabble, a regular at Gather, an organic, zero-waste shop in Peckham, England. “When I get home, I love unpacking my shopping, throwing nothing in the bin.”
Source: Positive News

4. India

The world’s longest constitution was translated into a tribal language spoken in northeastern India, broadening access to legal rights. Santali, which is spoken regionally by around 7 million people, was added to India’s Constitution as an official language in 2003. But until this year, the country’s speakers had never been able to engage with the document, and the rights it enshrines to tribal and Indigenous peoples, in their own script.  

The historic translation project was conducted by university professor Sripati Tudu, who grew up speaking Santali at home and has taught the language for the past eight years. But rendering the legalese into his native tongue offered a unique challenge. Words from the English version like “sovereign” and “democratic republic” proved especially difficult.

Piyas Biswas/SOPA Images/SIPA USA/Reuters
Santali-speaking people dance in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Santali is spoken in parts of Bangladesh, Nepal, and northeastern India.

“Even the translation in languages like Bangla is complex,” he said. But the value of the project goes beyond linguistics. “How will people know about their rights if they cannot understand the basic guidelines which provide them those rights?”
Source: Al Jazeera

5. Burundi

Former combatants are planting seedlings to revive Burundi’s war-torn forests. During a civil war that began in 1993 and lasted over a decade, huge swaths of the country’s forests were destroyed. Only around 6.6% of the original forest cover was left standing, according to the Burundian Office for Environmental Protection. In 2018, the government launched a tree-planting campaign to heal some of the damage, bringing together the defense and security corps and the local population, including many veterans who used to be part of warring factions.

“We ate whatever we found on our path. We knocked down trees here and there for cooking. The forest hid us and fed us during the civil war,” said Ndayuwundi Joseph, a war veteran who is now part of a reforestation committee in central Burundi. Some 150 million trees of various species have been planted across 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) since the start of the project.
Source: Mongabay

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