Our Communities

Our communities consist of poor marginalized individuals and families in remote areas, a large number of which are women and girls or groups of socially excluded or disadvantaged population under a specific union or ward administration. A mandate of Community Legal Services (CLS) Programme is to draw under its service area a total of 1,162 unions/wards by 2017 by a range of affordable quality legal services easily accessible by members of our poor communities.
We will regularly document lessons learnt and human interest stories on the struggle of our communities and successes achieved as a result of CLS intervention. The information collated will be presented under the following thematic areas. In accordance with the Press, Publication and Web Posting Policy the names of some of the beneficiaries in the human interest stories have been changed and we have used caution in use of photographs.

Reaching the Poor

The Geographic Expansion Plan (GEP) was prepared to facilitate the selection of grant proposals and seeks to expand the coverage of legal services by setting the following criteria for reaching the poor:

  1. Hard to reach unions or wards, disaster prone coastal areas, char islands, and uncharted areas;
  2. Socially excluded groups like Indigenous populations, slum dwellers, fisher folk, forest dwellers, sex workers and religious minorities;
  3. Districts where violence against women and girls is relatively high;

In order to reach the above marginalized populations, CLS has to ensure the following:

  • The presence of at least one or a bundle of community legal service(s), e.g. physical facility, community mobilizers or CBO mediation activities;
  • Sufficient knowledge by communities of the availability of such service and the means to access the same, and
  • The reached population live within a reasonable distance from the facility (e.g., a union based community legal service centre) if such facility exists.

Human Interest Stories

Access to Legal Services

CLS does not promote a standard or template approach to legal service delivery in the communities. Through a competitive grants selection process, it has funded the best ideas on delivery of community legal services  like mediation, establishing community legal aid centres, activating village courts and arbitrations councils, or directly providing legal aid and litigation services. Therefore, access by use of services constitutes the numbers of people in the community who have benefited from legal services  which is a composite figure derived from legal advice, litigation,mediation, and case referrals.

Human Interest Stories

Advocacy and Research

Many of our legal specialist grantees are involved in advocacy and research in relation to:

  • Invoking the writ jurisdiction of the High Court for enforcement of fundamental rights (Public Interest Litigation or PIL)
  • Enforcement of key pro-poor/women’s rights focused legislation
  • Review of laws, policies and procedure
  • Implementation of milestones rights-friendly PIL directives

Human Interest Stories

Raising Awareness on Legal Rights and Entitlements

A Perception Study carried out in 2013 at CLS working areas revealed that people’s perception on access to justice including the knowledge about fundamental rights, laws, legal problems are poor. Also the study finding suggests that community perception on common legal issues and justice institutions and actors is vague. Interestingly, poor women have unclear knowledge about the payment of dower money (Denmohor) by the husband (even if the wife initiates the divorce process). As the study shows as high as 89% respondents have no or the wrong idea about it, indicating that only 11% respondents know it correctly.

Our grantee NGOs are addressing these knowledge gaps in the community through the use of innovative communication activities e.g. mobile the atres and also court yard meetings. Impacts of these activities are hard to measure statistically but to some extent can be assessed through beneficiary feedback and monitoring change of perception and reporting of individual reflection.

Capacity Development

Capacity development is a key component in implementing a challenging programme like CLS. The CLS grantees conduct many capacity development initiatives at various levels in the community in order to improve the performance of legal service delivery. Clearly, some major initiatives are community mobilizer training, enhancing skills of the Union Parishad chairman and members, Community leaders, circle chiefs and headmen and other traditional salishkars or mediators around conducting mediation and sensitizing lawyers towards legal service delivery for the poor. Moreover, the management agency is also involved in formulating Innovative and strategic approaches for the capacity building of the grantees around legal service delivery…

Community Engagement

Instances of engaging influential members of the community, women’s groups, and community based organizations, rights forum with the process of CLS delivery has proven to contribute to effective delivery of the programme. Some grantee NGOs are working in conjunction with community policing initiatives implemented by other donors and using facilities of community radio to create awareness on legal rights and entitlement issues.

Human Interest Stories

Local Government Engagement