The organization is consists of five departments/cells . These are as follows :
1) Legal Department/cell
2) Advocacy and Research Department/Cell
3) Training Department/Cell
4) Counter Trafficking Department/ Cell
5) Shelter Home
Legal service delivery is one of the strategies, which BNWLA adopted to ensure the enforcement of rights of individual, especially for women and children. BNWLA has been providing legal assistance and protection to the victimized women and children through a team of legal practitioners all over the country. BNWLA is providing legal support through 42 legal service delivery centers and member Lawyers of six Divisions. With the help of the clinic and member lawyers BNWLA collects the information of Human Rights Violations (HRV). This information is collected through fact-findings; partners involved at grassroots level, legal aid clinics, and the help-line and especially from follow up reports of electronic and print media.
This initiative has helped enormously in the local areas by bringing about a more systematic approach of Investigation Officers (IO) to investigate the cases, which helped to ensure successful prosecutions. BNWLA go for the fact-finding with the view to no innocent person can harass. The organized approach, using the law and systematic investigation to tackle violence and other injustices, is leading to the building of new and useful capacity locally. Influential people in local communities have been drawn into being prepared for dealing effectively with future problems.
BNWLA receives complaints of various forms of violence against women and children through its Legal Service Delivery Center across the country.
Objectives of Legal Service Delivery
In Bangladesh the social norms that surrounds the discrimination against women is embedded in the social, political, economic and legal systems and is still persistent in all the aspects of our lives. Women of Bangladesh are victims of disparity, discrimination and exploitation. This discrimination stems from the fact that in Bangladeshi society, gender has a camouflaging role, where human rights of women cannot be exercised in its full.
The Constitution guarantees the rights under Article 34.1;The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh allows people ‘to enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law regardless of gender’. The Constitution further provides that ‘every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court’. The right promoting gender equity is pronounced in the Constitution yet process tends to face a great deal of impediments. The laws enacted are not beyond the loopholes and are subject to delayed implementation.
Key Strategies of Protection
1. Country wide widespread legal service delivery (i.e. mediation/Shalishes, court case conduction etc) through 6 divisional offices, 34 out-reach legal service delivery centers & 42 grass roots level partner organizations;
2. Rescue/release from different confinements;
3. Repatriation from different countries;
4. Fact finding services;
5. Referral services (both grass roots & national level);
6. Victim and witness preparation and protection through community based and institutional service delivery.
For these loopholes in law and the defect of enforcement rules, the victims of violence or person deprival of rights are vulnerable to pursue or if they pursue they cannot get benefits or if they pursue the existing system make the process delay. BNWLA in this kind of scenario takes strategic interventions in releasing the rights and for giving protection. Interventions like discussions, dialogues, workshops, training and research dissemination works as tools to advocate for change of existing system and also plays important role in amendment, enactment of rules and laws. BNWLA therefore from 1979 till 2009 has witnessed the changing scenario of the attitude of the judiciary; law enforcing agents and other actions
The Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh is committed to uphold the rights of women and eliminate discrimination against women. In this respect Bangladesh is a party to several international laws such as CEDAW and CRC where all issues related to rights and protection of women and children are ensured, protecting women’s rights and eliminating discrimination against them. However, the provisions of these laws are yet to be incorporated in the domestic legislation. Nevertheless, both the Constitution of Bangladesh and several special laws guarantee equal rights and protection of women against violence,
The government has taken steps to incorporate the right-based issues in the National Plan of Action, PRSP and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs are taking protective measures to ensure women and child rights issues. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are universal and indivisible. They apply to all women wherever in the world they live and whatever their circumstances.
However, BNWLA feels the rights of women and children are needed to be publicized widely. It is essential that women from all walks of life are well conversant about the rights and develop a sense of safeguard, that any interests contravening the rights of women and children can be protected.
Functions of BNWLA’s Legal Counseling Center
• Provide women& child friendly legal advice, opinion and suggestions to ensure access to justice for the poor, vulnerable, deprived and disadvantaged women and children.
• Provide counseling at Pre-Trial stage
• Cases refer to Govt. Legal Aid Committee & others human rights organization
• Briefing about court procedure.
• Counseling to reduce the trauma of the victims of violence and assert their rights.
[Legal counseling center is a new initiative of BNWLA- which started to function on 2009)
Advocacy and research department/cell
Influencing macro-level policy and regulatory frameworks is now seen as essential to increasing opportunities and removing constraints at the micro-level and civil society development and democratization as a means of effecting this macro-level change has been emphasized by all. The term “advocacy” has come to figure more and more prominently in the discourse of human rights NGOs in Bangladesh, although the term is not always used in the same way. Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) makes extensive use of the term "advocacy" in its statements and it gives greatest emphasis to the idea of advocacy as the process of directly influencing policy makers. In different statements it also stresses a process of communicating with different communities at the local and international level to affect this process.
BNWLA believes that provision of legal assistance and subsequent rehabilitation cannot solely establish women and child rights in the society unless some mechanism is there to prevent the future possibilities of violation of rights. That is why BNWLA incorporated an integrated and comprehensive prevention program including training, research, and advocacy at all level. The organization emphasizes the bottom to top theory as it believes that if the demand could be created at the grassroots level, then the respective authorities could be made more accountable to supply the necessary provisions for ensuring justice for disadvantaged women and children. The major objectives behind BNWLA’s advocacy and research initiatives are:
1. To generate support from local, regional and international communities for the protection of human rights through the promotion of human rights in Bangladesh.
2. To raise human rights and other development issues with people and the concerned state bodies in order to ensure the protection of human rights in the country.
3. To ensure that human rights will not be violated by any legislation or by development policies and programs.
4. To ensure the voices of women and children are heard by conducting public forums, debates and media campaigns.
5. To make regular suggestions through the media and other channels to the National Assembly and to the government to ensure satisfactory laws and legislation concerning women and children are adopted.
6. To provide training/seminars/workshops and information campaigns in order to increase women and children’s knowledge and capacity to solve their problems.
A wide range of activities falls under BNWLA's advocacy and prevention work. The various activities are listed below, categorized by the types of strategy adopted.
This is done by direct advocacy with targeted authorities on selected issues. This includes:
- Personal lobbying.
- Direct input on drafting government legislation as it is being created.
- Petitions and joint statements relating to more general government policy.
- Advocacy of government policy through lobbying of international donors.
- Contact with media
- Media production
- Workshops/training involving government officials, LEBs, mass people, NGOs, imams, kazis, journalists, lawyers, judges and other civil society members.
Training to enhance capacity
The partner organizations play a very significant role providing issue-based training. Therefore BNWLA follows a strict selection criterion to select partners. BNWLA selects NGOs as partner organizations from the districts where there do exist legal service delivery centers and where there are member lawyers, or where there is a plan to open a clinic in the near future. The interested NGOs apply for membership following a prescribed format, and a selection committee finally selects the organizations as partners. The selection committee strictly follows agreed rules and criteria.
In case of providing training the organization follows a two-step mechanism where BNWLA imparts training to the partner organization’s staff and they in turn impart the training to their beneficiaries. Other than the grassroots beneficiaries, the participation of kazis, imams, marriage registrars, police, border security forces, members of local elected government, community /children groups are noteworthy.
Technical assistance to draft/amend laws:
BNWLA as a professional group of lawyers has been so far impresses the concerned stakeholders with their capacity to provide technical assistance to draft laws. The organization’s strength lies in the fact that the ongoing action researches are the basis of their technical assistance implying that peoples’ opinion are in line with them forming the basis of the draft law. One significant example could be sited here is the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act that has been recently passed by the current cabinet and waiting for parliamentary approval where BNWLA relentlessly and intensively assisted the concerned line Ministries to draft the law.
Studies and research
The most effective advocacy continues to be the advocacy with a solid base of “proof,” whether in terms of documented case histories or through studies of public attitudes. A very robust example of this kind of advocacy is BNWLA’s Violence against Women Annual Reports. These reports stand as documents that are available to the international community and they influence international pressure. The relentless force of facts is also bound to have an effect, sooner or later, on public opinion in Bangladesh, and the perspective of policy-makers. BNWLA believes that more emphasis should be placed on advocacy reports of this kind, and donors should be encouraged to fund them.
The ‘Violence against Women reports ” created a wider impact at different levels.
Listed below are a few results:
• Achieved international recognition.
• Ethically, government’s relevant machineries become preliminary agreed to implement the recommendations of the research.
• As a leading research organization, BNWLA has been invited to deliver feedbacks/technical supports in formulating or amending different policies, plan of actions and laws in relates to women and children.
BNWLA has been vigorously advocating for establishing a mechanism for the prevention of possible victims. The advocacy techniques consist of push and pull factors. The push comes through mobilizing public opinion on the women rights issues and the pull comes from the policy makers who will be pursued to take pro-active measures to reform and/or enact laws, adopt policies for comprehensive protection of women and children. BNWLA is presently focusing on following advocacy issues ( at national level):
Mobilising Public Opinion to Create Gender Sensitive Society
Over the years of fighting violence against women BNWLA experienced that unless the social attitude be changed it is not possible to root out the causes of Violence and he
nce the organization has adopted mechanism and devices programs to enhance gender sensitivity across different section of population in the society.
BNWLA thus involved the media to enhance awareness of masses about the issues related to Violence against Women and Children through publishing special pages highlighting the major activities or recommendation of different professional groups made during various workshops, consultations, roundtable etc. BNWLA has also organized special events with the media to disseminate the Land Mark Judgments related to the rights of women and children render by the High Court division of the Supreme Court. For instance, the Daily Prothom Alo and the Daily Star has published reports of the discussion on “Sexual Harassment Guideline” and Convention of the National Women Lawyers respectively.
Apart from these BNWLA has also developed Village Theater through its partners to create awareness among the mass people at community level where different messages on gender-based violence are being incorporated in drama highlighting a real story of violence that took place in the recent past. Such Theater show brought huge crowd of different age and sex. Besides these the partner organization with supports from the BNWLA member lawyers arrange meeting at village level and discuss the causes, consequences of violence against women and help the possible victims referring to Legal Services delivery centers and the Community counseling Centers.
Acting as Catalyst to make the Local Government more responsive to women and children rights
Over the years of supporting the Women and Children BNWLA has experienced that Door Step Crisis Support Services need to be introduced to fight Violence against Women and Children and to make the process functional a vibrant community positive towards the rights of women is essential.
Local Government Institutes and Local Elected Bodies have been brought under a comprehensive training program called Legal Literacy Awareness Class.
BNWLA has been piloting the implementation mechanism of the proposed Domestic Violence [Protection & Prevention] Law in 32 Union Parisads through establishing Community Counseling Centers (CCC) where Community Leaders have been involved as members of the Vigilance team as social force to help the activities under the CCCs.
Creating Champions of Women’s Rights through capacity Building Training & Workshop
BNWLA had also consultations with the Judiciary and other individuals involved with the Justice System help strengthening the efficiency to contribute in the process of delivering justice to the survivors. BNWLA has organized programs with the Judicial Administration Training Institute (JATI) participated by newly appointed Judicial magistrates and Assistant Judges to aware them on Child rights issues and recent landmark Judgment related to Women and Child protection.
Community Care Committee (CCC), has been found as successful intervention by BNWLA which were formed involving the Local Elected Representative, Teachers of the local schools and any relative of the children integrated in the family. The Community Care Committees were formed firstly to look after the welfare of the integrated children and secondly to ensure that no children will further be trafficked from this particular areas. So far 106 such committees are active in different areas of the country. In addition BNWLA also conducted six Legal Awareness Sessions highlighting Child rights issues, trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation including the support services rendered by the organisation.