Strengthening Legal Empowerment in Rural Communities through Community Based Paralegals

RSPN and Open Society Foundations (OSF) collaborated to launch a project ‘strengthening legal empowerment at RSPs: capacity building of paralegals’. In a pilot phase, the project is being implemented in eight union councils of the districts of Bahawalpur and Rajanpur through National Rural Support Programmes (NRSP) for the period of one year: from October 2015 to April 2017. The project focuses on building capacity of the staff of the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) and community members including women and men to work as paralegals in rural communities.

The project has three components, all focusing on building a nationwide network of basic legal services. In the first component, it describes key steps to build the capacity of RSPs’ staff and communities on legal empowerment as paralegals with technical support of Foundation Open Society Institute – Pakistan (FOSIP). RSPN, in the second component, will support training for a cadre of lead trainers to be employed across the country in a number of programmes. The third component comprises research on basic legal services infrastructure of Pakistan and how it can be improved to become an ideal model.

RSPs adopted a model of integrating legal services into its broader work with communities. The model RSPs has developed combines community-based volunteer paralegals, already embedded in and committed to helping their communities, supported by social organisers and lawyers. The efforts seek to empower vulnerable communities, particularly women, to access just solutions to their problems, strive to prevent upsurge of disputes, enhance interaction with and support to the government agencies.

The legal issues vary from civil documentation, forced marriages, early marriage, inheritance cases, and domestic violence to consumers’ issues. The paralegals, after receiving extensive training by RSPN and RSPs, are capable to facilitate women and men to resolve their own legal issues through legal and procedural information, referral, assistance, mediation, negotiation and considering the due process of law.

During last six months, community based paralegals have assisted communities to settle as many as 330 cases. The women paralegals have been equally efficient in specifically dealing with most of women related cases. The staff and paralegals are also creating awareness through sessions in the community on civil documentation and procedures, women rights and consumer rights.

© Rural Support Programmes Network. All Rights Reserved | Designed By Web Wide Media