Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Filling a Need 24/7

Hello from Afghanistan!  I’m Jeff Le.  Normally, I’m based in Washington, D.C. supporting Global Rights’ development and communications efforts, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to come to Afghanistan. I’m here to learn more about how Global Rights is helping to strengthen the legal system through its Practical Legal Education and legal advocacy and assistance programs.

This past weekend, my Afghan colleague Shakir Sibghatullah and I visited Herat - a charming city in Western Afghanistan best known for its famous silk and saffron.

The three defense lawyers (right)
While we enjoyed the fantastic weather (Kabul is snowy and cold), we came to Herat to visit our Legal Advice Bureau (LAB).  Global Rights’ Herat Legal Advice Bureau funded by the U.S. Department of State, is one of four LABs building the capacity of Afghan local partners in Kabul, Herat, Mazar and Nangarhar provinces to assist women and marginalized communities secure access to legal services and assert their legal rights in family court.

Since August 2011, the Herat LAB. led by our partner, Voice of Women Organization, has provided legal advice on 48 family cases, 14 criminal and civil cases, and provided court representation to 26 clients.  They also work closely with the Afghan Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid Department and international legal aid organizations to refer cases when they are more high profile and require additional resources.

We had a chance to speak with the three LAB defense lawyers, Khatera, Somaya and Faisal, who are supporting these disenfranchised communities.  Despite being in a deeply rooted conservative society, these women lawyers are determined to help their people accessing to justice.

“We’re working so closely with people in desperate need.  They come from poverty and in bad circumstances.   They suffer from violence and they fear for their future.  We’re trying to help where we can,” said Khatera.

Faisal chimed in and spoke about his experience on the job.

“It’s really a 24-7 job.  You’ll get phone calls in the middle of the night.  We’re filling a need in our community and they trust us to help them, ” said Faisal.
Somaya spoke of the mentorship and advice they receive during weekly information sessions with Global Rights Human Rights Legal Practitioners.

“Some of these cases are very complex.  Many times, we need a respected senior legal advisor for their advice.  I am learning all the time.  It gives us the confidence and the support we need to help."

I was really inspired by their dedication.  They’re working in tough conditions with a lot of pressure. Also, they’re not just sitting at their desks.  These lawyers are continuing to outreach to communities in the Herat general public.  In November, they worked with the Ministry of Justice to implement trainings on the importance of legal awareness and the basics of property and dowry.

It was fantastic to see how our staff is working to give the LAB the support it needs to do this great work.  The impact the LAB is having on lives in Herat is very clear.

- Jeff

Posted by Jeff Le

1 comment:

  1. I am always ecstatic to discover people spending some time as advocates for human rights movements. Your organization is centered more on marginalized populations, and lawyers in this field really deserve the highest praise and acclamation.

    Mike Clark