What is your most pressing challenge in working with women's access to justice programming?

I would encourage any and all members to contribute here as to what they feel is the most pressing challenge for their paralegals working on women’s rights and access to justice.

A group of Network members will be together in Bangladesh for a Legal Empowerment Network Learning Exchange focusing on women’s rights. I am writing this to start an online community discussion on the major challenges that practitioners and paralegals are facing in working with women’s rights for our group discussion sessions in order to see what advice and guidance comes out of these discussions.

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Although i’m not working directly with paralegals and implementing Women Access to Justice (WAJ) through partners, I’m facing challenges supporting the partners setting a contextual strategic plan for work with paralegals in the shadow of governments or situations where paralegals are considered illegal or not accepted. In addition there are the challenges of selection, training, retaining, supervising, and evaluating paralegals.

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There are different challenges mostly faced, two of them are Customary and traditional norms and religious writings and teachings.

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As a legal empowerment practitioner working in the MENA region we face many significant challenges and barriers accessing justice for women. The community-based paralegal model has provided new opportunities in reaching vulnerable communities that may not of be accessed otherwise. However, this innovative technic is relatively new to the region and faces some legal barriers in regards to the status for paralegals. Paralegalsim finds itself in a gray area or legal limbo which restricts the willingness of organizations in the the region to utilize this legal empower tactic. Also there is a lack of research on legal empowerment in the Middle East, much less on paralegals. Part of this gap is cased by the language barrier, but also legal empowerment in the form of legal aid or pro bono legal services is relatively new. We hope to see more innovation in the future and an expansion of legal empowerment learning in the region and more translation of documents between Arabic and English to enable more people to have access to this info. Looking forward to learning from this network!

شكرا

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من التحديات التى نقابلها فى العمل مع الوسطاء هى 1- بعض الوسطاء متمسكين بالعادات والتقاليد الخاطئة او التفسيرات الدينية الخاطئة 2- من توصيات العديد من الوسطاء انهم بحاجه لتبادل خبرات بينهم وبين وسطاء قبائل لديهم خبرة فى مجال الوساطة الامر الذى يحتاج الى ميزانية مرتفعة 3- ليس لدينا عدد كبير من االوسطاء السيدات حيث ان المجتمع لن يتقبل احكام صادرة من امراة

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The Namati exchange programme in Bangladesh has been helpful to share and to learn from different organization the strategies that has worked to overcome challenges facing paralegals. Paralegals are doing a recommendable at community level by assisting women and children access justice through provision of legal assistance. Most of countries use volunteer paralegals and the challenges are dropout and how can organization motivate paralegals to keep the spirit of work toward assisting the needy women and children. One of the discussed option is to conduct refresher and capacity building training, assist paralegal to register as identity so that they can be able to solicit funding froth other developing partners. For the countries that paralegals are not recognized into their legal system, there is a need for the organizations to advocate for paralegal recognition into legal system.

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As for our Myanmar program that focusing on land right issue, involvement of women is quite still low. The women empowerment in Bangladesh is much more in advanced. Our involvement of women paralegals are still not reached in a certain level yet. We need to make more awareness and education for involvement and role of women in our country. It helps me to remind and rethink about our women empowerment. Thank you for giving me a chance to participate in this learning exchange program. Very nice to meet you all.

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Welcome to @mitali from BNWLA here on our Community Discussion forum, just wanted to let everyone know that you have joined and to include you in our discussions! :slight_smile:

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In most of the our communities, women and children have been considered the groups after men. This results into them being denied their right to have their voices or opinions considered. Legal assistance to women have been much helpful to them, though the most prevailing challenge has been how to reach women especially in remote areas. However, the use of paralegals has been fruitful as they play a great role by assisting poor majority in mostly in rural areas where lawyers do not want to go and even the services offered by lawyers most rural women cannot afford. The use of paralegals therefore is an important approach to help marginalized population. The challenge with the use of paralegals is that they are not legally recognized in most countries including Tanzania. Also they are not getting any support to perform their duties. Only NGOs have been training them and sometimes leaving them without further support. This makes it difficult for paralegals to perform, hence trained paralegals deciding to spend their time on other economic issues. Also because they do not get support, it is difficult to ask them submit reports on what they have been doing. They will only do so to organizations that support them.

The Namati Learning Exchange in Bangladesh however, was useful as it helped the participants to learn different approaches and challenges in their respective countries; and discussed the possible solutions.

Personally, i learned a lot during the program and I believe it will help much in improving how to deal and help paralegals.

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Thanks @Jovin_Sanga for your reflection here. You bring up some very important points about the value inherent in using paralegals, but also some issues that are very relevant to Network members around not only legal recognition, but selection, retention and supervision.

I wanted to ask if you would be willing to join your colleagues @Wigayi and @fatimaadamu as well as Namati staff @lytteltonbraima and @danielsesay in holding a webinar that would be open to Network members discussing elements and strategies of selection and retention of paralegals. I think there would be a lot of interest in the subject and would really like to support this discussion going forward. Thoughts?

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As a practitioner who has worked with paralegals at community level in Uganda for 2 decades, I am a firm believer in the value returns of working with this invaluable community based resource. However one of the biggest challenges is the legal and policy frameworks that define paralegals as those who have attained a formal diploma in the Law Development Centre. The Law Council is nervous about the standards and quality of legal aid provided by these paralegals and is calling for some form of standard setting. There is some sound thinking behind this concern as currently, legal aid service providers are numerous and the quality of their recruitment and training of community members who hold the key position of paralegal is not readily ascertained and yet this of necessity require credible and knowledgeable persons in order to inspire key players in the service delivery pathway and clients including vulnerable groups. Several calls for the development of a curriculum for training these community based resource persons are yet to yield concrete outputs.

As a way around the legalities of labels many organisations are now referring to them as community legal volunteers and the good work continues. Partners like USAID are developing resource materials for the legal aid service providers they fund along thematic areas to improve and standardise the information and skills to improve capabilities.

Regards

Laura

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I read some of the participations and we do not have legal barriers with our paralegals program , because we have volunteer lawyers that sign on the papers that paralegals prepare. We, Microjusticia Perú as part of the Microjustice4All (MJ4All) network mostly face these challenges:

  • For fundraising purposes donors does not understand our approach for ending violence against women. Also they do not consider a legal empowerment organization as one for helping women in different issues.
  • What is even more difficult is the real application of the law in gender violence cases. In Argentina, also member of the MJ4All network, laws are more effective, so the impact is bigger.
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