Salish, a traditional alternative dispute resolution process at community level, is widely recognized in rural Bangladesh and is popular among rural poor. One of the big reasons of its popularity, community people can have easy access to Salish because of its dynamic and flexible nature. It could be defined as ‘informal village community hearing' existing parallel to formal justice system over the generations in rural Bangladesh. Salish is supposed to lead to conciliation between the contesting parties. However, traditional Salish reflects gender hierarchy and often reinforces local power structure and religious dogmatism. On the other hand, the formal justice system, which is inherited by colonial rule, is complex in nature. Poor communities are not use to with formal justice system because it is highly bureaucratic, time and money consuming, and often corrupted.
Considering this situation, since 2004, NU has been working on Access to Justice programme aiming to improve access to justice of rural communities through human rights education, community mediation, and community legal services. Since then, NU has significant achievements that not only include improving poor men and women’s access to justice but also include in grassroots women’s mobility in Salish and Local Government Institutions (LGIs).
ACCESS TO JUSTICEIn order to improve access to justice, especially to promote women’s rights based on principles of equality and justice, NU has been working for access to justice considering two broad and four specific objectives:
- To enhance access to justice for poor men and women through democratic community mediation, legal aid support and advocacy.
- Further strengthen the community groups to demand better services from local institutions and make them accountable for community needs and to formulate strategy for sustainability.
- Developed and strengthen community forums, paralegal and leadership;
- Promoting gender sensitive mediation and provide legal aid to poor and women;
- Effective and functioning of local institutions by increasing people’s participation;
- Increased and intensified advocacy and networking on human rights, gender and justice issues at local and national level.
In order to achieve these objectives, NU has been strengthening community forums through faciliatating groups meetings; assisting groups and networks organizing community mediation (Salish); providing legal aid support through litigation and investigation and community legal counseling; organizing capacity building trainings for both staffs and community group members; facilitating to organize annual conference; and organizaing wareness raising programme at community level.