Brief abstracts of conference sessions will be listed here once the final program has been confirmed.
Title: Questioning the knowledge and practice of legal empowerment
Lead Presenter: Mirza, Angbeen Atif
Session Abstract: Launching a clinic is a difficult process anywhere. There are university policies to abide by, people to convince of its value, legal processes to follow. We began street law two years ago and have since engaged with multiple schools, an orphanage, and are assisting a charity school develop a basic lesson plan to roll out in approximately 1400 schools across the country. We learnt a lot along the way, we tweaked our methodology, figured out what worked better for us (something we revisit regularly), tried to incorporate what we felt was most important in our quest to ‘empower’ school children with basic knowledge of their rights as citizens of the country. However, whether we achieved any empowerment remains a question for us even today. We all appreciate legal empowerment as a noble goal; the idea that our intervention will somehow improve lives by placing people in greater control of their lives, by helping them understand their rights, for example, at arrest, or their rights as consumers, or their rights as tenants or as women, we will leave them stronger than we found them. Knowledge of one’s rights, however, does not automatically translate into a realization of them. In Pakistan, for instance, when we tell children that they have a right to be in school, it doesn’t change the fact of their employment. When we tell minorities of their fundamental right to equality in all spheres of life, it doesn’t change their unemployment. The list goes on. What then, does legal empowerment mean? We launched a criminal legal aid clinic, with the hope of providing student support to lawyers representing indigent clients deserving of legal aid. The idea was to assist people in accessing justice – something saw as another form of legal empowerment. Our teething problems have been plentiful. Access to prisons, delays in the criminal justice system and politics of the bar are but a few things that stand in the way of effective legal service delivery by a clinic. This brings us back to our question: what does it mean to empower people? What tools do we put to use from our CLE repertoire to bring about effective empowerment in a target audience? This session aims to share experiences from Lahore and learn from the challenges faced by other jurisdictions.
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See full list of abstracts here.