Justice For All
Access to justice is the right of every human being. But in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas and specifically among women, knowledge of legal aid is minimal or absent and many are prevented or discouraged from exercising their legal rights. Despite the fact that women are subjected to many forms of violence and discrimination, including physical, mental and emotional suffering at home, in school, in the workplace and in the community - they do not have a voice and seldom lodge any complaint.
USAID's Justice for All (JFA) Program, a 5-year initiative launched in May 2013, aims to facilitate access to justice and empower citizens to exercise their rights. In cooperation with justice sector counterparts and the civil society, the program will improve the delivery of legal aid, enhance judicial governance, and raise awareness among citizens about the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution. The program is being implemented at the national level and in pilot districts, initially in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna, Rangpur and Mymensingh.
As part of JFA, BCCP is implementing an "Awareness for Justice" program in Dhamrai and Dohar upazilas of Dhaka district till March 2015. A survey in these upazilas, comprising 24 unions, 537 villages and a population of 500,000 revealed that the women who constitute 50% of the population often face physical abuse from their husbands, dowry related violence, sexual assault, eve-teasing, etc. Most of these cases are not filed for fear of persecution. Many young girls are forced to marry early, are not provided household expenses by their husbands, or are divorced without any compensation. Through its program, BCCP aims to create awareness among community people about the availability of legal aid service locally, to increase legal literacy among the people and activate the legal aid committees to combat violence against women, children and minority communities and the ultra poor segment of the population; and create a supporting environment so that women can report injustices and seek services. The target group consists of rural women, adolescents and minority communities; and the secondary group of men and other stakeholders like Upazila and Union Legal Aid Service Committees.
In order to raise awareness on legal aid services, materials like posters, stickers, tin signs, advertisement through local cable TV network containing the same message have been developed and being distributed to publicize the availability of legal aid services and a 'Call to Action' for the target group so that they can seek legal support. The same messages are being appeared on local cable channels.
Legal literacy through a number of interactive activities, and dissemination of print material containing information about the nature of violence against women, children and minority, relevant laws and range of support services available.
To ensure the smooth implementation of the program, orientation sessions at the project area (Dhamrai and Dohar Upazila, Dhaka) with the local Legal Aids Committee members conducted on their roles and responsibilities. Moreover discussion sessions with women, adolescents, minorities and social change agents in the community organized.
In addition to those activities, a number of street drama shows using local talents have also being organized. Special events such as the Legal Aid Day, Child Rights Day and Women Rights day have been observed with a view to enhancing awareness of the significance of these days.
It is expected that on completion of the program, beneficiaries will be aware of the existence of the Government legal aid services and how to access them; and that the services available within the justice sector will be utilized by the community.