Making it Work: Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities in Bangladesh (MIW)


Project Period: May 2013 – Feb 2015

Working Area: 5 Districts: Chittagong, Kushtia, Pabna, Meherpur and Sirajgonj

Donors: EU through Handicap International Back Donor EC

Partner: Handicap International


Context:

Persons with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalized groups suffering from isolation and rejection as a result of the constraining cultural traditions and superstitions. They have little chance of employment as they are excluded from education and economic opportunities, hence stuck in a cruel cycle of poverty. They also face difficulties in accessing the justice to fight for redress in denial of their rights. Bangladesh has a large number of Disabled Person Organizations (DPO) but they lack specific skills and knowledge required to support access to justice including limited awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities, the laws that establish such rights and the complex processes for obtaining legal aid support. Women with disabilities including those who head households and persons with disabilities from marginalized ethnic and the Dalit community face multiple forms of discrimination, and as such the constraints in accessing rights are magnified considerably. Although various rights are enshrined in Bangladeshi law, persons with disabilities struggle to access legal services to achieve justice.


Goal:

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of articles 12 and 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It will also improve access to justice for persons with disabilities through the capacity development of DPOs and legal service providers in Bangladesh.


Objectives:

The project expects to improve the knowledge and awareness of DPOs and members of the legal profession on disability rights and the legal structure concerning these rights in Bangladesh. The action also expects to identify good practices that support articles 12 and 13 of the UNCRPD, regarding equal recognition before the law and access to justice. These good practices will be disseminated to other legal service providers and DPOs, and should lead to policy changes that ensure persons with disabilities can access their rights.


Beneficiaries:

The rural poor, including women and children and disadvantaged members of the community. Secondary beneficiaries include women’s organizations, Community based organization (CBO) members, village elites, Union Parishad(UP) Chairperson, religious bodies and other relevant bodies.


Activities:

In order to ensure improved access to justice for persons with disabilities, BLAST and Handicap International will carry out the following activities through:

  • Developing selection criteria to identify the DPOs to work with, and assessing the barriers to access to justice for persons with disabilities. Some awareness exists, but more detailed research is required to fully understand the scope of the problem. Workshops will be held for the DPOs on capacity building on the legal framework of Bangladesh, and providing specific knowledge regarding disabilities, and with lawyers and judges on including people with disabilities in law and legal practice. Training for DPOs will be provided on providing advocacy campaigns on access to justice issues for persons with disabilities. 400 persons with disabilities will be referred to legal aid lawyers for consultation and advice, with support for 200 to access mediation and litigation.
  • A Making It Work advisory committee will be formed. This consists of involving a range of stakeholders who work together to ensure that goals are met. HI coordinated with a number of stakeholders in the development of this project. DPOS will be trained on the collection of good practices and making recommendations to improve access to justice for people with disabilities. The training is necessary to ensure that the data collection process focuses on identifying good practices relevant to ethnic minorities, women, children, and the extreme poor. DPOs will not just provide a list of complaints or abuses, but also provide examples of effective and innovative practices that have been used, or suggest solutions to resolve the problems. Advocacy programs will be developed and implemented which target government and legal aid providers based on the good practices developed earlier. HI and BLAST will support the DPOS to develop a network of legal aid lawyers, while other DPOs will work on coordinating advocacy work.


Expected Results:

  1. 1. Increased knowledge of the DPOs on various aspect of legal and disability rights and improved advocacy skill of the DPOS on disability rights issue will ensure that the justice system is more sensitized to disability rights.
  2. 2. Recording, spreading, and using the optimal practices for expanding access to justice for persons with disabilities.


WORK UNDERTAKEN


Through the project a significant relationship was formed between Handicap International (HI), BLAST and 10 Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) who are working in the five districts of Bangladesh. All hold a common vision of working to support access to justice for people with disabilities.

Outcomes:

  1. Capacity development of DPOs on access to justice and evidence-based advocacy: As a result 10 DPOs in 5 districts are knowledgeable about the legal procedures of Bangladesh, using this knowledge to support 724 people with disabilities through referral to legal services. There is evidence of successful DPO-led advocacy at district and sub-district levels with District Legal Aid Committees, local administration, ward counsellor, lawyer’s associations, hospitals and the police.
  2. Sensitisation of legal professionals on the rights of people with disabilities: 203 lawyers and 23 judges were orientated by BLAST on disability-inclusive legal practice, based on the BLAST Harvard Manual. This manual was developed through a collaboration between BLAST and the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and is targeted at sensitising lawyers, judges, DPOs and other actors on disability law and rights. There is evidence of increases in knowledge and changes in practices as a result, with strong potential for continued benefits for people with disabilities. 
    1. 3. Good practices for ensuring access to justice for persons with disabilities recorded, disseminated, and used for advocacy campaigns: DPOs drove a multi-stakeholder evidence-based good practice collection process, based on the Making it Work methodology and collected 14 good practices. National and district-level Advisory committees were formed and directed the process, along with validating the good practices. These good practices were documented in the form of a Making it Work report on Access to Justice for People with Disabilities in Bangladesh and a 4 episode docu-fiction highlighting particular good practices related to gender-based violence.
    2. Sensitisation of government authorities on the rights of people with disabilities and engagement of policy makers and stakeholders: Policy makers at national, district and sub-district levels have been sensitised on disability and there is evidence of the consideration of disability in policy-making.  A national conference was organised in Dhaka at the end of the project period to disseminate the lessons of the project, along with the good practices with representatives of government, DPOs, NGOs and legal professionals. With the participation of Justice Wahhab Miah, Honourable Justice of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Bangladesh as the Chief Guest and Justice Naima Haider, Honourable Justice of High court as a Special guest, the outcome was key commitments from stakeholders on access to justice for people with disabilities.


See Photos of Project Activities.

 

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