Best practices for starting a youth paralegal program - request for advice

We at Lawyers for Hope are working on introducing a youth paralegal program here in Rwanda. I wanted to ask if Namati or other Network members had resources, examples, or advice for us that would give us more information on how to best start this program? We are also interested to know how to make this youth paralegal program more attractive for recruitment in the beginning?

The youth in this program will be dealing with gender-based violence (GBV), child labor, school drop out, succession, and ignorance of the laws protecting the children and family (through legal awareness and civic education). Could anyone give advice or best practices to help us move this program forward in the best way possible?

Many thanks, @Juves (Juves Tchiamala)

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@juves - sounds like a great initiative! I have a quick initial question: what ages are you including in “youth”?

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@Juves I have found that the best thing to do is to try to first attract youth who are leaders, and could be found in pre-existing youth structures or programs. These youth would be the first to consult with regarding how to attract other youth and also give advice on your program (if you have not already engaged youth in the program design.) From my experience working in Uganda with Ugandans and South Sudanese refugee youth, that youth also crave training and employable skills. So we flavoured our programming with life skills and vocational training, so that youth. Our real struggle was engaging female youth, which we were able to do by creating youth clusters and ensuring each cluster had a female and male rep who then plugged into community based protection mechanisms that pre-existed. Additionally, these reps would engage with local/community leadership as well as local police and gov’t structures so that they were visible and supported in their roles regarding access to justice…if you have any specific questions I would be happy to help further.

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@ Juves that is really a good initiative and I believe these types of program really helpful to promote access to justice in Rwanda. In Bangladesh we have engaged some young paralegals as our regular staffs to disseminate legal knowledge and to create awareness among the community people/ targeted beneficiaries under a designed program. For selecting them with other required qualifications, we emphasizedon to collect their CV from the program intervening area so that they have easy access to the community people. It’s not necessary that have have law degree but their qualification and acceptability in the community will be prioritized. Ones they have been selected they received paralegal training through organization. Their office location will be in the union level (lowest tier of local governance) and with that purpose my organization Bangladesh NationalWoman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) initially signed a MOU with the Union Parishad. Under this MOU the Head of union parishad (called Chairman) agreed on to allocate an office room for our staff with free of cost and that center is called as Legal Service Delivery Center. From that office set up they have provided various supports to the survivors who have came to us for support including psycho social and legal counseling support, mediation support and litigation support (through listed panel lawyers) . In addition they are also responsible for conducting court yard session, fact finding of incidents on VAW, assisting to stop child marriage, stalking and organizing Social Protection Group (SPG) meeting. SPG group has 10/12 local persons representing different group of people who have contribute to prevent VAW and GBV. The paralegals are work under direct supervision of a staff lawyer who has law degree. Juves I have shared in brief that modality and process of our work with paralegals. Off course your country laws & practices, administration structures as well as socio-economic conditions need to be consider for designing a paralegal program in Rwanda. However If you have any specific question or required more information I will be happy to reply.

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@Juves, good initiatives, i hope you have targeted areas already, to make it easy for recruitment, it will be easy for you if you liaise with local government authorities at the lowest level since they are closer to the community not only that but they become well informed about the project so they become part of it (sense of ownership, acceptability, sustainbaility). From there you can advertise through the local government who will help you to reach the community. You should set the minimum qualification criteria (it depends on Rwanda education system). The recruited youths should undergo a training on the issue( number of days depends with milestone set for the project), for example in Tanzania we have done it in five phases, each phase covers five days, it is not done consecutively, it is done in intervals of two, three to five months. Capacity development is very important for them so they need mentoring and coaching oftenly, in Tanzania we use experienced legal aid providers ( who have lawyers) to supervise them and do backstopping , For more informations kindly contact me on how we implement paralegal project in Tanzania.

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Yes @Juves a good initiative indeed. I would make a few suggestions;

  1. I would propose a consultative engagement with key stakeholders, especially those implementing like projects locally to share lessons learnt and to find out what the key decision makers may require of you
  2. You could consider choosing the paralegals from already existing structures such as community care workers, youth officers, etc especially if they are government structures as this helps to strengthen the existing structures and to infuse a sense of ownership as suggested by other discussants. Whilst it is essential to be guided by the ages of your target groups, you may find it helpful to include a few seasoned adults for experience and mentoring of the youthful paralegals
  3. I would also propose a reference/training manual on the particular issue (GBV). Here I can share what we have developed for our community paralegals.
  4. There is also need to develop (consultatively) a contract/operational guidelines, which those willing to join the initiative, sign. This will help in cases of corruption and general guidance.
  5. Training for the chosen community cadres is essential. Is there a nationally recognised training for paralegals in your country? This would be ideal. If not, you could consider consulting a seasoned legal based organisation to do the training and certification for you.

All the best

Chinga

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Hi @lauragoodwin I am very sorry for the late reply, I had a problem with my password, i could not log in, @tobiaseigen has helped me to change my password and now I can easily log in! back to your question the ages are between 15 to 27 .Thanks

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@dreeni, I like your idea of attracting youth who are ready leaders but the challenge is they like to do what can give them money, how can we overcome this challenge? I will make sure boys and girls are represented in the program. I really appreciate your advice and experience on working with youth! Thank you!

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Hi @mitali, I like the way you are managing youth paralegal in your Country, I will follow your instructions and If I get a question in the course of implementation I will write to you! many thanks

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Hi @Juves,

As mentioned, we have found that if programs include some life skills training or concrete learning that they can use to support livelihoods this has helped. We have some small incentives such as airtime, t-shirts and bicycles that also help sweeten the deal. Also youth who have somehow already been involved or had their families involved with the justice system are also more willing to come forward and be a part of such programs provided they have the support and respect of their community leaders.

regards, Dreeni.

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According to my experience, its better to first do the survey and collect data to know what are the causes of gender-based violence, child labor, school drop out and ignorance of the laws protecting the children and family.From there, you can involve the youth leaders by consulting them to compare with what has been collected from the survey then it will be easy for you to know how better you can start this program.

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In our organization the average age of paralegals is 22 years old. We make agreements with local Universities to receive law students and social science students and they work with us as part of a class or intership program that last from 6 months to a 1.5 years. Many of them continue working with us after this period because we have a permanent training program and have an exciting environment work. We also have a job carrier, so the best could join the coordinators team when we have new projects.

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Juves, in Rwanda we have an organization if you are interested to contact them: http://www.microjusticerwanda.org/

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Hi all, thank you @Juves for a great question. I hope you found many of the above responses useful. I appreciated @dreeni comment about trainings and other capacity building incentives. This is useful for children as well as adult paralegals and used by @mitali and many others as incentives for paralegals too.

@Estela notes a really interesting approach from Peru as well, where the paralegal program is almost an external university legal clinic with a committed period of time and even recruiting future staff. Did it take much time to develop relationships with the universities? Do they offer any academic credit as that could be a strong incentive too.

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I wanted to also add that @sakalaeric of the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) of Zambia recently submitted the following two resources about training children in their rights that are an excellent addition to this conversation:

Other related resources that have been posted on the subject include:

Do any of the other contributors to this discussion have other resources or training materials that would be useful to add here? If so, please feel free to send to me in a message or upload to the site and I will add them here.

I would be curious if @princeisraelorekha from the Connected Advocacy Centre for Youth Development in Nigeria or @kallonabdulai or @alastairnicholson from Children’s Rights International in Australia had any other advice or resources to contribute?

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Hi @michaelotto It takes about a year to get a formal signed document but we start with an informal collaboration. Since the beginning students get credits and in the better cases their internship is to get their university diploma. You can see our paralegals in action in our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/microjusticiaperu/

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I can also share a manual that we began working on in 2014. Although specifically about Zimbabwe, it could provide a general outline of what needs to be included. Our community paralegals have really found it helpful and we have used the same manual to train traditional leaders. I am sure something along that line can be developed for youth paralegals. I can also help with the global and Africa level legal/policy overview

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@Estela, that is really interesting as the credits serve as their own incentive and the students gain valuable experience working as paralegals. I will be sure to discuss this idea with other practitioners so please share any resources or other information if you feel it would be useful.

@Chinga, please do share the manual with me - you can upload it directly here to the post by dropping the file into it or you can send to me by private message and I will upload it to our resource library. We are currently looking for more resources and training materials for children’s rights to share with Network members, so the more the better.

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Thanks @Chinga for contributing the following gender-based violence training manual, much of which could be relevant in working with youth paralegals around similar difficult issues: Training manual on gender-based violence

I also came across the following videos from the Indonesian Legal Resource Foundation about teaching legal rights to children (Thanks @uli):

Street law for street children

Community legal teaching for street children in Jakarta

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@juves, I recently came across the following additional resources for training youth who are doing legal empowerment work that seem quite interesting. If any of you below have any tips or advice to share about working with youth, please let us know.

Youth Access to Urban Land Advocacy Tool - @fariraimageza

Global Agreements, Grassroots Advocacy: Youth and Governance in a post-2015 World

Training Manual on Minority Rights, Protection and Respect - @YAD

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