7-5

Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA), one of the Community Legal Services (CLS) partner organisations, has recently started providing legal services to their clients by introducing video conferencing facilities through Skype in their five selected CLS centres on a pilot basis. The centres located at Gaibandha, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Dinajpur and Khulna districts are playing a vital role by providing specific internet based information services to these particular rural communities, as now they have attained the direct access to the lawyers/prosecutors of Dhaka without even leaving their respective premises.

BNWLA is giving the utmost importance to the appropriate provision of information among the rural communities, as information itself has no inherent value unless it becomes accessible and usable. Therefore, the usability and effectiveness of information largely depend on the access to information. They are acting as an intermediary between their rural clients and the lawyers/prosecutors of Dhaka by taking necessary steps to make sure the direct communication through video conference calls by Skype enabling the lawyers/prosecutors to judge their clients’ reactions and tailor their advice to the visual cues they receive from their clients rather than relying solely on their verbal responses. It is much more like an actual face-to-face meeting with a client, which most of the lawyers/prosecutors would prefer in order to build trust as well as rapport.

When a client raises any complicated issues which cannot be resolved locally, the Union Solicitor not only communicates with BNWLA Dhaka office to resolve the issue, but also gets the client talk to the lawyers/prosecutors of Dhaka (who are also BNWLA members) directly through Skype to provide him/her with   the  required   legal  advice.

Sometimes the clients themselves express their interest about talking to the lawyers/prosecutors. In this case, the Union Solicitor arranges this ‘Virtual Meeting’ with the lawyers/prosecutors through Skype.  And sometimes the Union Solicitor also asks for some expert opinions from the senior lawyers through Skype whenever required. BNWLA has conducted a total of 241 Skype conference calls, and approximately 1060 people have been benefited through Skype till the end of 2014 (inclusive of the family members).

BNWLA has aptly equipped their Legal Aid Service Centres located at Dakop, Fulbari, Bhurungamari, Gobindogonj and Sharishabari with the required tools on a trial basis which is being considered as an  innovative communication tool ensuring the much needed virtual access to justice for their rural clients in these particular areas. It is evident that their clients really feel privileged once they get to communicate with the lawyers/prosecutors of Dhaka directly and be provided with the required legal advice free of charge . This thoughtful initiative by BNWLA is not only saving time, but also saving money as well as energy of these particular rural communities who are no longer need to go beyond their localities in seeking legal advice. BNWLA hopes that this pilot approach could be mainstreamed and eventually bring positive changes to the lives of people.