Community Awareness on Access to Justice (CAA)


Project Period: 1 August 2013 - 31 January 2015 (Extended till May 2015)
Working Area:Mymensingh, 4 Upazillas, 8 Unions and 40 Wards

  • Upazillas:   MymensinghSadar, Muktagacha, Fulbaria, Nandail   
  • Unions: Khagdohor, Dapunia, Kheruajani, Kashimpur, Balian, Deokhula, Musulli and Ganggail

Donors: USAID – Justice for All Program

Context:
The formal justice system of Bangladesh is largely inaccessible to the majority of the citizens. Lack of access to justice is severe for women, children and marginalized groups (such as, adibashis, dalits, and persons with disabilities).Key factors limiting access to justice at the community level is the lack of legal awareness amongst rural communities regarding their basic rights, and existing remedies under the law, and related services, as well as lack of access to, and availability of, government and non-government legal aid services. Within the government legal aid system, although the legislative framework is in place, there has been till recently an insufficient commitment on behalf of the government to activate and implement the Act, with the NLASO and DLACs operating within severe institutional and resource constraints.

Goal:
To strengthen and expand access to justice among women, men and children living in poverty or disadvantage through establishment of a legal education model, and improved citizen awareness of rights, remedies and  services, and through strengthening and expanding legal services through outreach and activation of  DLACs, UZLACs, and ULACs ("LACs"), measurable through establishment of robust public-private partnerships for referrals and case coordination, and through greater usage of available services by targeted communities.

Objectives:
To improve citizen awareness of rights and remedies through development of a legal education module, with a special emphasis on family law, land law, criminal law, violence against women, and violence against children.
To reinforce legal through Legal Aid Committees, by establishing strong public-private partnerships for referrals and case coordination, and greater usage of available services by the beneficiaries. 

Beneficiaries:
Individuals from low income groups, particularly chor-dwellers (Fulbaria) and slum-dwellers (Sadar), with a focus on women. Secondary beneficiaries will include government Legal Aid Committee (LACs), Union Parishad Standing Committees and other community level justice-sector actors.

Activities:

  • Facilitating awareness meetings for targeted communities, in collaboration with LACs and partner organizations, on rights, remedies and accessing available services, and with a focus on gender equality and addressing practical barriers to access to justice, such as costs, mobility or associated stigma.
  • Developing a legal education on rights, remedies and accessing available services focusing on family law, land law. Violence against women, violence against children and criminal law (including practical advice on procedures at local thana)
  • Raising public awareness on rights, remedies and accessing available services of LAC members UP members and targeted communities through distribution of posters, leaflets, books, and stickers, as well as through social media, Rights Awareness Fairs and street dramas;
  • Developing collaborative approaches with relevant stakeholders including project staff, partner organizations, LACs, lawyers, civil society members and members of judiciaryto provision of legal and other services through facilitating the formation and/or operational functions of LACs. ; and
  • Greater engagement and capacity-buildingof judges, lawyers, legal aid officers, and other justice sector actors through workshops, mediation training, and training sessions. The participation of female lawyers and judges will be highly encouraged at these workshops.

Expected Results:

  1. Creation of greater legal awareness of rights, remedies and services within targeted communities
  2. Greater capacity of women, men and children living in poverty or facing discrimination to seek redress from the available justice system.
  3. Increased responsiveness of DLACS and local justice system actors i.e police officers, lawyers, court officials.
  4. Increased capacity to perform their duties and responsibilities under the law and
  5. Improved participation of, women and girls within the justice system, and increased responsiveness of the system to their needs and rights.

WORK UNDERTAKEN

Outcomes:
This project has created many unique outputs and will have a long-term impact in the society, especially for poor and marginalized communities who have lacked access to legal services. With the implementation of the `Community Awareness on Access to Justice` project, BLAST as local partner was able to effect some important new changes. 

  • The majority of union legal aid committee (LAC) members were not earlier aware about their membership in the committee. By implementing the JFA activities, these committees have been activated.
  • Most of the local community was also unaware about the availability of legal aid services. By implementing this project people have learned about the government’s. legal aid services.  
  • Upazila Legal Aid Committees (UZLAC) & Union Legal Aid Committees (UPLAC) have started to carry out their functions and a trickle of applicants has steadily grown in the district legal aid offices for getting legal aid services and has also started to reach the UPLAC and union level with UZLAC for getting information and legal aid and advice.

Activities Undertaken Include:

    1. Activation of UPLAC/UZLAC Committees
      • Orientation for UPLAC / UZLAC members
      • Facilitation of bi-monthly UPLAC / UZLAC meetings
      • Quarterly coordination meetings with DLAC, UZLAC and UPLAC
    2. Mediation Training
      • Mediation training sessions were conducted with the Union Legal Aid Committee and social leaders engaged with local mediation. These events were intended to develop skilled local mediators.  
    3. District level Workshop on Justice Delivery Issue 
      • These events were arranged to identify barriers to justice delivery locally and to accelerate the provision of govt. legal aid services to marginalized communities. Both judgers and lawyers participated in these workshop and shared their views making specific recommendations to improve the justice delivery system.  
    4. Awarness-raising on government legal aid services
      • Ward level Courtyard Meeting
        • Members of poor and marginalised communities became aware about the availability and scope of government legal aid services and began receiving services from the DLAO according to their needs.  
      • Union Level Right Awareness Meeting
        • Local community members in various unions were made aware about the availability and scope of government legal aid services, their legal right and remedies and they have started to get services from DLAO.
      • Union Level Street Drama
        • The drama “AinerOdhikar” (Rights and Law) which was approved by JFA team of NCSCwas scripted and performed by a local partner
      • Miking Campaign
        • IEC materials (Sticker/ Leaflet/ Brochure) were disseminated while announcements which had been pre-recorded on a CD by the DLAC were played in crowded areas.   
      • College Level Legal Awareness Session
        • Conducted 4 sessions in 4 different colleges to inform students about the legal rights of people and the government’s legal aid services
      • Upazila level Street Drama
        • The drama titled ‘AinerAdhikar’ approved by NCSC, was staged by a local partner named Social Unity for Nursing (SUN) and the script was also written by the partner
      • Citizen Charter Printing and fixation
        • A Citizens’ Charter containing detailed information about theLegal Aid And Services Act 2000 and its services total of 18 citizen charters printed and disseminated into 18 Union Parishad.
    5. Networking with existing partners and civil society 
      • Developed networks and communication and increased collaboration among partner NGOs and civil society. They resulted in increasing case referrals from NGOs to the DLAO.  
    6. Celebration of National Legal Aid Day (28th April, 2014)
      • To observe National Legal Aid Day BLAST arranged the “OdhikarMela 2014”. BLAST organized rallies at 4 Upazilas twice (2014 and 2015), staged dramas (2014 and 2015), and held a miking campaign at 4 Upazila (2014 and 2015). Through project activities, people from Mymensingh were newly oriented with National Legal Aid Day.  


    See Photos of Project Activities.


 

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