December 2017

Legal Advisor from IDEA Helps Rural Family Gain Access to Justice

A thankful mother and sister-in-law rejoice at having their family member released from custody and home again in the Shan State village of Yay Pu.

Thanks to the grant awarded to the Integrated Development Executive Association (IDEA) by USAID and managed by Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP), families in rural communities like Yay Pu are able to receive legal counsel and representation. Formed in 2012 to focus on rural development, social cohesion, and human rights, IDEA is working to improve access to justice for marginalized people in Nawnghkio and Taunggyi by providing legal literacy training, monitoring formal and informal justice sector processes, and offering legal representation.

A young legal aid lawyer working with IDEA showed great enthusiasm for her work and legal prowess in settling the case for the family in Yay Pu. Before the legal aid lawyer got involved, the family had made at least 12 long and costly trips to the court, but with her representation the case was resolved in less than 2 months. Initially, the family members and villagers were reluctant to work with the lawyer because of her age. However, after they saw her encourage her clients by saying, “You should not be worried too much; I will try my best to help," they realized she was capable and dedicated to her work.

The family members had first learned about the lawyer through village awareness meetings conducted by IDEA. Before attending these awareness sessions, they knew very little about their legal rights and court procedures. Since receiving legal support through IDEA, the family has expressed how these sessions improved the overall life in their village. They have noticed that people are more aware of their rights and responsibilities and some illegal behavior has stopped.

Although a nationwide legal aid law has been recently enacted, it will take time to implement. The lack of legal assistance disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people, especially in remote regions. Thanks to the USAID grant program, many people in rural areas are now being supported and the justice sector is more accessible.

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