Women Law And Status Programme
The women law and status programme integrates grassroots to policy level advocacy with building womens capacity to access rights and address their felt needs.
A key concept is legal consciousness: promoting social and legal activism by imparting legal literacy and a critical understanding of the structures and dynamics of power that underpin was and customs governing womens lives.
Legal consciousness aims
Ø To enable people, especially women, to make informed choices within the existing range of options (laws, customs and institutions), and to empower people to challenge and redefine these.
A cornerstone of the WLS is the grassroots capacity building outreach programme.
When the WLS outreach was launched n 1994, there were few signposts to guide its development and from the start, the outreach has emphasized a participatory approach, flexibility and responsiveness to community needs.
The outreach focuses on building the capacity of community based organizations (CBOs) as actors best positioned to understand the needs of their own communities, to devise and implement appropriate strategies to address these, and to be a constant and immediate source of support to their communities. Raising awareness amongst women and communities, the outreach addresses local issues prioritized by the respective CBO. Hence the WLS outreach was has been shaped as much by the input and active participation of CBOs and community members as by the experience and inputs of the SG team.
Over the years, the outreach has evolved the following main activities:
Ø Promoting a rights based perspective, providing women and CBOs knowledge about existing legal provision, rights under these and the skills needed to access them;
Ø Helping women understand the differences and contradictions between statutory provisions and the customs more commonly applied to them;
Ø Building capacity to understand the options under law and informal systems;
Ø Providing women the linkages and support mechanisms they need to act upon their informed choices;
Ø Strengthening the capacity of local groups to intervene to alter the status quo both locally and nationally.
Main Features Of The Outreach Programme
The WLS outreach woks closely with approximately 26 groups each year in sindh, Punjab and the north womens groups, other groups that focus on women are also included.
Ø Building Understanding
· As a first step, publications and information relevant to communities needs are disseminated to share Shirkat Gahs perspective and to stimulate discussion on womens concerns in the area.
· Subsequent visits to CBOs at their sites and meetings at SG premises enable more in depth dialogue on issues. These initial meetings and discussions shape the future relationship between SG and the CBO. With time, discussions become far more centered on the WLS core programme.
Ø Capacity Building
Under its legal consciousness initiative,
· SG conducts short legal awareness (LA) sessions with communities and CBOs on topics mutually agreed upon. LA sessions discuss womens rights and address the local legal and social issues women face. Sessions also provide a forum to discuss the judicial systems, state authorities and informal institutes, and mechanisms for approaching them. A constant theme is womens rights in the family and how to fill in the marriage contract, especially clauses to ensure rights. LA sessions have led to a considerable increase in the number of marriage contracts being filled in and registered and increased number of contracts specifying clauses to guarantee women particular rights and additional protection in the marriage.
· Every alternate year, WLS conducts a 40-day paralegal training. The paralegal training imparts legal information but, in addition, critically reviews the legal system from the perspective of rights, social justice and development. (See box)
· Provide advice and assistance on law and human rights;
· Are a source of support and facilitation between community members and lawyers and/or state authorities;
· Mediate/facilitate womens cases in traditional forums of adjudication; and
· Act as mediators in local issues/disputes amongst community members.
· Similarly, with strengthened capacity in addressing legal and social issues, CBOs undertake mediation and intervention in their own communities and area of work in individual womens cases and actively participate in the local formal and non-formal support and adjudication systems.
When needed, CBOs refer legal cases to SG and/or seek assistance in resolving family
Disputes and problems and in interventions in the local non-formal decision making forums such as panchayats, landlords and jirgas.
· A wide range of materials are produced for training and awareness building especially geared towards building the capacity of CBOs illustrated posters and booklets, pamphlets and primers. These publications complement the WLS trainings and provide information and back up looks and advocacy publications are also useful resource material for all CBOs and NGOs involved in similar work. Shirkat Gahs publication women, law and society: A manual for NGOs is part of this programme. Regular publications include a quarterly newsletter.
Ø Advocacy Campaigns
The outreach programme actively engages in campaigns and initiatives on rights issues with CBOs. An important part of the outreachs advocacy is community mobilization on policies. A conscious effort is made to ensure that linkages function in two directions. Equally bringing the communities voices to the policy makers so as to broaden the national agenda and linking the outreach CBOs to the issues being discussed or passed at the policy level, both national and international and linking groups with all on going national campaigns.
Over the years, the outreach has facilitated the active input of CBOs and communities into national commissions and law reform initiatives and CBOs have become an important force in the peace movement and campaigns on violence against women and constitutional amendments.
At the same time, CBOs have taken international advocacy campaigns to the grassroots. These include the 16 days of activism on violence against women, nuclear armament, and the 5-year review of the Beijing platform for action. They have mobilise4d their own outreach areas and communities and linked these initiatives to local concerns and activism for change.
Ø Support Linkages
The outreach provides linkages to CBOs without direct access to organizations working on other issues such as health, environment, adult literacy, income generation, street theatre, etc. It regularly informs groups about available training and services offered by others. Where appropriate, it provides service and support organizations with lists of groups that could benefit from their programs.
Ø Organizational Development
On a responsive basis, the outreach facilitates the organizational development and advocacy initiatives of CBOs by providing both formal and informal training and advice, as well as regular interaction and networking.
Paralegal Training Modules
- Conceptual framework and process of legislation
- Fundamental Rights
- Muslim Family Laws
- Criminal Justices System
Violence against Women