Webinar: Sub-National Government and the Criminalisation of Poverty & Status: Defining the problem

Partners ACJR, Lawyers Alert, CHREAA, LHR and ICJ-K hereby cordially invite you to the first of a series of webinars on sub-national governance and the criminalisation of poverty and status, on the 4th of April 2023 at 10:00 am – 11:30 am (SAST).


Sub-national governments exist below the national level and are typically provinces, states, municipalities, and/or counties. They manage local affairs on behalf of national governments although this may frequently be contested terrain. These entities are usually delegated general local responsibilities and autonomy and may have their own policy priorities independent of that of the national government. Similarly, sub-national governments may invoke their own legislation (e.g., by-laws, municipal laws, and local ordinances, etc.) that applies to a particular geographical space.

Often, the crimes defined under local government laws may not at face value invoke the same sense of gravity as nationally defined crimes. However, the enforcement of local government laws can have dire consequences for individuals. Offences against local government laws are victimless and many such offences target behaviour that is not inherently criminal, but rather a perfectly normal action such as selling or producing something, or being in a particular area. The socio-economic challenges present in many African countries result in the dependency of many people on the informal economy and this involves spending time in public spaces to earn an income. These offences or their enforcement mainly target poor and marginalised people, relying on the access that public spaces provide to perform life sustaining activities, such as street vendors and waste pickers. Unfortunately, the challenges facing poor and marginalised people at a sub-national level (i.e., lack of access to housing, access to trading permits, sanitation issues, selective zoning of certain areas, etc.) are often simply ignored.

By bringing together civil society representatives and partners of the Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status, this webinar seeks to define the problem and gain continental perspectives based on different contexts regarding problems experienced with sub-national governance in terms of law, policy and practice, and how this impacts on poor and marginalised people, and more specifically, the tendency to criminalise poverty and status.


  • Janelle Mangwanda (ACJR)


  • Kristen Petersen (ACJR)
  • Ruth Thokokaima (Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance – CHREAA)
  • Rommy Mom (Lawyers Alert)
  • Palesa Maloisane (Lawyers for Human Rights)
  • Julie Matheka (ICJ-Kenya)

Following registration, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. ACJR wishes to acknowledge the Open Society Foundations and the Sigrid Rausing Trust for making the research and webinar possible.

Photo: Seyi Rhodes

Artboard 10
27 March, 2023
Type of Update:
Updates from our Partners
Campaign Activities
Recent Events
Human Rights
Petty Offences
Campaign Partners:
Africa Criminal Justice Reform
Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance
International Commission of Jurists – Kenyan Section
Lawyers Alert
Lawyers for Human Rights

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


#DecrimPoverty   |  #DecrimStatus  |  #DecrimActivism