Paralegals are conducting legal awareness sessions in villages, increasing knowledge of child rights and reducing discrimination against children.
Mhwe, a 12-year old girl from a small village in Yay Nan Chaung township, was raped by a man from her village. When Mhwe’s father learned of the rape, he made a complaint to the village administrator, who contacted the paralegal program offered by the Social Care Volunteer Group (SCVG) for assistance. Soe Khin, one of the SCVG paralegals supported the girl to report the crime to the police and coordinate with the local Department of Social Welfare (DSW) for assistance.
Tetra Tech’s Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) is supporting efforts to improve access to justice through a grant to SCVG to implement a program that protects the human rights of children in the Magwe region. SCVG is increasing awareness of children’s rights and child protection measures, and the organizations has developed an intensive training course to provide paralegals with the skills to assist children and increase access to justice. After a recent regional three-day training provided by SCVG, the paralegal volunteers began conducting awareness training on child abuse and human rights in their own villages. These sessions will reach at least 300 villagers to understand more about the rights of children, how to protect them, and how to access justice sector services.
Compared to similar cases before these initiatives, there was little knowledge of rights and no support system for victims. Due to a lack of psychological and legal support services at that time, a victim of rape from Mhwe’s same village had to move away from the village. Now, however, thanks to SCVG and the paralegals, Mhwe has found not only legal assistance, but support from the community. The increased understanding from these legal awareness sessions is reducing discrimination against and shaming of children. The paralegals have even reported that village elders are lending their support to Mhwe and other children whose rights have been abused. The village elders’ support serves as a strong incentive for other community members to change their attitudes and offer support that can change children’s lives.
With grant funding, SCVG is also providing child victims with psychological support, legal advice, and assistance to travel to court and testify. SCVG is also monitoring court cases with the support of paralegal volunteers and the DSW to identify and address rights violations. Tetra Tech’s PRLP support is enhancing the rule of law and protecting human rights for people in Myanmar while also building the capacity of civil society to support vulnerable groups, such as children.