COMMUNITY BASED PARALEGAL TRAINING AND ADVOCACY
Almost three decades ago the Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell begun its currently well-rooted community based paralegal training program. Through this, the most underdeveloped and deprived residential area of the city is identified along with a household from within that area which is proficient enough to be converted into a community paralegal center. Following this, a capable women from the identified household is trained and appointed as the supervisor who reports directly to the office. The purpose of establishing such a paralegal center is to assure community participation as per their comfort and reliance on the community based supervisor which allows the elimination of possible deterrent factors for the efficacy and efficiency of the center.
Currently there are 16 community based paralegal centers in Lahore and Kasur by Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell. Once a community based paralegal center is established, frequent training sessions are organized in which women from the entire community are invited to attend. The appointment of a community based supervisor assures attendance in great numbers as she is better connected with the community and its challenges. Many trainings are conducted at the center by the Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell field coordinator for the program, Miss Rahat Gul who frequently conducts visit to all the centers to monitor the work of the community supervisor and to better connect with the community and its issues.
The content of the trainings revolves around awareness and knowledge of basic rights as well as facilitating the audacity to stand up for one’s own rights. Topics include the importance of having a national identity card, importance of voting during elections, the current affairs of the state and the protections provided by law for all common matters. All training of legal rights are conducted by Advocates. There is a special focus on women, children and minority rights/religious tolerance in these trainings. From within these communities, each year 120 chosen candidates (90 women and 30 men) go through a rigorous 6 day training by Advocates to become certified paralegals.
Since the inception of this program in 1989 there have been hundreds and thousands of beneficiaries. In 2020, collectively 125,090 beneficiaries with 17,870 direct and 107,220 indirect beneficiaries have helped through the Paralegal Training and Advocacy program.
The paralegal trainees are valuable sources for aptly understanding the ground realties of the status of women in the local community. Through these trainings women are empowered on many levels and their capacity to be an effective member of the civil society is enhanced. It is vital to understand the struggles of women form all social and economic classes to facilitate universal and real progress of Women Rights. These important understandings of the realities of a society are aided by this community based paralegal training program.