November 30th, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
“The paralegal course has given me an awareness of our rights and the pathways one has to take in achieving our basic human rights, says Hina.
Hina is among 90 women and 30 men who received their certification on a year-long paralegal course from the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell. The certificate distribution ceremony was held at HRCP auditorium on Sunday. She says the paralegal training has given understanding about her rights, adding that she would use her new-found knowledge in helping her father his due share in the inheritance from their uncles.
Being a student, Mahnoor Khan was bothered by obnoxious calls but the paralegal training has taught her how to block unwanted callers and report them. “I have become more aware of the harassment. Now, I know that if a university teacher calls or texts me late at night about my course it’s not appropriate and what means and channels I need to report such behavior,” she says, adding that the paralegal training will help her guide fellow students as well friends and neighbors in her locality.
Ali Raza is among the 30 male participants who have completed their paralegal training. “Being a male, I have learned more about being as responsive to rights and privacy of my sister as well as other females on the street,” he says.
Hina Shahid, Coordinator of Paralegal Training, Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, explains that the purpose behind this paralegal training was to impart education to women about their basic human rights. During the military rule of Gen Zia Ul Haq, there were lots of oppressive laws against women, she adds. In the 1980s, the paralegal course was more focused on raising awareness of women about their rights and laws directly connected with women issues like family and marriage laws. The course has been regularly updated with time by including laws and issues faced by women in current situations.
The paralegal course is also benefiting housewives learning the pitfalls of modern technology. “As a housewife, I have become aware of the misuse of photos and videos shared on cell phones and social media and whom to approach in case of such misuse,” says Sobia Raza, one of the graduating participants of the paralegal course.
Hina Shahid says the paralegal course is designed as a year-long training. “We impart education about family laws, women rights, child sex abuse, harassment and cybercrimes,” she says. The training includes visits to police stations as well as interaction with lawyers.
Munizae Jahangir, senior journalist and HRCP council member, addressed the paralegal participants at the distribution ceremony.
According to the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, a total of 43,591 individuals have benefited from Paralegal Training and Advocacy since 1989.
The community-based paralegal training program services the most underdeveloped and deprived residential areas. The Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell runs 16 community-based paralegal centers in Lahore and Kasur
The paralegal trainees are valuable sources for aptly understanding the ground realities of the status of women in the local community. Through this training, women are empowered on many levels and their capacity to be effective members of civil society is enhanced. It is vital to understand the struggles of women from all social and economic classes to facilitate universal and real progress of women’s rights. These important understandings of the realities of society are aided by this community-based paralegal training program.