M-Sheria; Mobile law in Kenya

M-Sheria; Mobile law in Kenya

Kenya has a population of over 40 million, which mostly lives in rural areas. However, the country has less than 5000 lawyers with the majority of those living in the bigger cities. About 46% of Kenyan population lives under the poverty line and cannot afford a lawyer and legal services in case of need or dispute.

Delivering justice through mobile phones

Considering the fact that mobile communication is widely used by the inhabitants of Kenya; M-Sheria gives the possibility for equal access to justice by using their cellphone as well as on a website. Many services in Kenya use mobile phones as a communication tool - they are usually marked with an M at the beginning of the name. M-Sheria follows this idea – they deliver basic justice to people even for those who use quite basic mobile phones. The system operates simply with SMS messages coupled to the M-Sheria website. People text their question which is then automatically uploaded on http://msheria.com/. They first receive a confirmation message that also contains an initial piece of advice. The advice is delivered based on system filtering the words used in the question.

The M-Sheria website is daily maintained by a group of about 500 lawyers. These lawyers, who work free of charge, answer the questions. The answers are texted back to the person and are also published on the website. M-Sheria is aiming to improve distributing legal services among Kenyan population with no or little access to justice.

Justice innovation partners in Kenya

HiiL has been working on this project together with Kituo Cha Sheria, a Nairobi based legal aid NGO, and Space Kenya Networks Ltd, with initial funding from the Dutch bank, ING. The website is already operating at a low scale through paralegals, but real exposure will be taking place by the Kenyan partners regarding communication implementations. The pro bono lawyers get national publicity and are respected as heroes for helping the poor.

M-Sheria covers the most common urgent legal problems - divorce, inheritance, eviction, expropriation, dismissal and so on.

Project details

Project leader: Jin Ho Verdonschot
Project partners: Kituo Cha Sheria, Space Kenya Networks Ltd
Duration: 2012-2013


MSheria.com - the MSheria website

Barendrecht, J.M., & Langen, M. de., Legal empowerment of the poor: Innovating access to justice. In: Gowher Rizvi and Jorrit de Jong (eds.), The state of access: Success and failure of democracies to create equal opportunities,  Washington D.C.: Brookings institution press, 2008, pp. 250-271.

Report on the European Launch Event of the Report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, Making the Law Work for Everyone (2010).