Bangladeshi Lawyers Take Part in Women’s Rights Training

September 2009

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) called upon its reserves of pro bono legal specialists to help train 17 Bangladeshi lawyers about women’s rights in August. Dr. Sujata Warrier, Director of the New York City Program ofthe New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, volunteered ten days of her time as part of a U.S. State Department-funded ABA ROLI program to protect women’s rights in Bangladesh. During the training, Dr. Warrier offered insights gained from her 21-year career as a women’s rights expert.

The participants were all young, promising lawyers, most with two to three years of professional experience, who will serve as traveling lawyers for the program. ABA ROLI Program Officer Cynthia Farid and Consulting Advocate Dilruba Shormin recruited the lawyers with assistance from the Bangladesh Bar Council,a program partner. Once fully trained, the lawyers will provide legal services to women in the rural areas of Feni and Chittagong districts. They will alsowork closely with 45 community volunteers in an effort to help promote theunderstanding of women’s rights in their rural communities. These efforts willbe made more effective by a simultaneous outreach program that includes public service announcements and a school street law component.

The five-day training took place at the offices of the Feni District Bar Association. The association also provided senior lawyers to serve as an additional source of expertise. Z.I. Khan, chairman of the Bangladesh Bar Council’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Committee, provided opening remarks and assisted during the first day of training, which was focused on the constitution. Other topics throughout the week included in-depth lectures on women’s protection laws, including acid laws, fatwa, dowry and women’s courts,and on religious personal law, which dictates court decisions on divorce, custody, maintenance, dowries and inheritance. Dr. Warrier and Ms. Farid provided more than 16 hours of domestic violence and victim’s education training. The coursework included role playing to increase the young lawyers’ confidence in their ability to counsel future clients. Ms. Shormin, who has a background in women’s rights litigation and policy, designed the training to beinteractive and to focus on the application of skills and knowledge insituations similar to those they will be presented with by their future clients.

Participants also received several legal analyses, a compilation of women’srights laws, a copy of the Bangladeshi constitution and a briefcase featuring aquote from the constitution, “Women shall have equal rights with men…” Fifteen of the trained lawyers, including three of the four women, will begin their traveling lawyer duties in September. Through this work, they will provide some form offree legal services to more than 3,000 rural Bangladeshi women over the nextyear.

After the training, ABA ROLI received a letter from one of the lawyers expressing his gratitude for being included. He went on to say that the legalconcepts presented and the techniques he learned were not available from anyother source in Bangladesh.

To learn more about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s programs in Bangladesh, e-mail rol@staff.abanet.org.

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