Tuesday 21 March 2017

The Community Legal Services (CLS) Programme in Bangladesh, organised an event, titled ‘Celebrating Challenge & Change: Community Legal Services in Bangladesh’ on 21 March 2017. The daylong event was held at the British Council auditorium, Dhaka University campus office, Fuller Road in the capital to highlight the importance, achievements and challenges of CLS programme. At the conference, CLS released two publications: the Quality Standards Handbook and a series of 13 Good Practice reports for legal services based on the BEACON categories. The CLS programme is implemented by Maxwell Stamp PLC and the British Councilwith the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (UK) and funding from UK-Aid.

Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Hon’ble Speaker of the National Parliament was present as the Chief guest. David Ashley, Acting High Commissioner to Bangladesh, British High Commission was present as the Special guest. Joel Harding, Governance Team Leader of DFID Bangladesh; Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive Officer, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA); Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST); Barbara Wickham, Director, British Council; Jerome Sayre, Team Leader, CLS Programme, and Christine Forrester, Capacity Building Component Lead, CLS Programme and developer of the CLS Quality Standards, participated in the event as speakers.

In her welcome speech, Barbara Wickham, Director, British Council said, “Since its inception, CLS has been focusing on reaching women and girls, strengthening the services of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), and advocating for laws and policy reform. CLS strives to support grants partners through intensive capacity building so that partners can provide quality legal services to the poor and marginal people, especially women and girls. We expect and believe that government, NGOs and other stakeholders will continue their support to provide legal services to poor and marginalised.”

In his remarks, Jerome Sayre, CLS Team Leader, highlighted achievements since 2012 – an additional 16% of the country and estimated 13.9 million more people now have access to justice through legal services.  End line survey data after four years of field activities has shown dramatic increases in awareness of legal rights for women including dowry (17% to 87%), divorce (15% to 89%) and maintenance payments (9% to 91%).  Also significant, he said, were the large increases in satisfaction among women seeking justice as they moved away from family and traditional shalish to modern mediation by community members assisted by NGO partners. 

CLS Capacity Building Lead Christine Forrester emphasised the important role of the Quality Standards in increasing the satisfaction of justice seekers.  The Quality Standards concept, she said, has been extensively used by organisations in the UK to assure quality services to clients – and is being used in Bangladesh for the first time with CLS NGO partners.  She reported that on most standards, over 80% of CLS partners made satisfactory improvements.

During the second half of the conference, a number of distinguished guests including eminent lawyer Dr. Kamal Hossain;  Meghna Guhathakurata, Member, National Human Rights Commission; Dr.Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director,Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB); Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka handed over BEACONS Award to CLS partner organisations.

CLS grants partners were recognised for their achievements in the 11 defined BEACON categories which include Responsive client services, Effective human resources  for service delivery, Partnership with local justice providers and other stakeholders, Partnership with other NGOs in consortium, Influencing Policy change, Campaigning and advocacy, Working with indigenous communities  in the plain lands and Chittagong Hill Tracts, Working in hard to reach areas, Community mobilisation for access to justice, Innovation in service delivery, and Learning organisation. 

The objective of CLS Programme is to provide grants to eligible NGOs to support the delivery of community legal services and provide greater access to justice to poor, marginalised and socially excluded communities in Bangladesh with specific focus on women and girls. CLS was launched in August 2012 and will end in July 2017. 

Notes to Editor

For further information please contact:

Arshia Aziz, Head of Marketing and Communications, British Council, Bangladesh

Email: Arshia.Aziz@bd.britishcouncil.org

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body.