This study intended to review the BRAC-ASK joint legal aid programme at different steps of its operation.
BRAC-Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK) joint legal aid programme was initiated to promote legal awareness among the poor along by providing them legal assistance to resolve their problems. In the mid 1980s, BRAC initiated its para-legal programme to promote legal awareness among the members of its village organisations (VOs). BRAC gradually realised that this was not enough for the poor. While legal awareness training was essential for the poor, they also needed legal assistance and help to resolve their own legal problems The legal aid programme has now started changing the traditional system of mediation that discriminates against the poor and particularly women. Instead of having decisions imposed upon them by traditional elite, mostly men, through village salish, women can now participate in a process of mediation facilitated by BRAC.
As a pioneer legal aid and human rights organisation in Bangladesh, Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK) promotes and protects human rights of the disenfranchised, particularly women through education, legal mediation, training, public interest litigation and advocacy. ASK also collaborates with network partners, and other non-government organisations to promote legal redress for women through regular legal aid clinics. In 1998, ASK’s Outreach Unit collaborated with BRAC to offer prompt, effective and low cost legal assistance to BRAC’s group members.
Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected for this study. Findings showed that BRAC staff could develop their capacity to implement the legal aid programme in an effective way. The programme required close supervision by BRAC and ASK at its every stage of operation, which a single Programme Officer (PO) could not ensure. The programme needed more workshops and seminars to be held at village level to make the programme widely accepted by the community people. The programme dealt with sensitive issues so liaison with the local police and the political parties was necessary to ensure the personal security of BRAC staff. The activities of panel lawyers should be strongly monitored. BRAC members had better knowledge on different aspects of legal aid programme than that of non-members. Around one-fourth of the respondents who received assistance from BRAC evaluated the legal aid programme either fairly effective or completely ineffective to solve their problems.