Access to legal aid in the Khmelnytskyi oblast. On the approaches to the solution of grassroots organizations
Publication date: November 9, 2023
Since February 2023, the Legal Development Network has supported the initiative of the Podil Legal League (Khmelnytskyi), a team of lawyers and a psychologist, as part of a program to strengthen local organisations’ capacity to respond to war challenges. The work included visits to employment centers, places of compact residence, and remote villages, where consultations were provided to the unemployed, including people with disabilities, the poor, and war veterans. The systematic work and approaches used are described below.
Between February and November 2023, the organization consulted more than 210 people. IDPs, locals and war veterans addressed the organization on issues of mobilization, border crossing, establishing legal facts in the temporarily occupied territories, pension and inheritance law, social benefits, payments to families of fallen soldiers, housing, etc.
In addition, the organization actively worked on cases related to the protection of victims of domestic violence, cooperating with shelters and mobile teams. There are positive court decisions in these cases.
“In August, we started visiting military personnel in hospitals as a team with lawyers and a psychologist. We visit once or twice a week because patients change so frequently. We take paper and a printer with us to prepare documents on the spot rather than sending them to institutions because wounded soldiers do not always have the physical ability to travel around the city. They have many questions, mostly related to material support and payments. We have already cooperated with the regional human rights ombudsman and plan to visit the Pension Fund and the Social Security Department with specialists from the Pension Fund. We feel very grateful for such help from the military,” says Anastasiia Ploshchynska, executive director of the Podil Legal League NGO and project coordinator.
In addition, once a month, the organization’s team visits the place of compact residence of IDPs in Dunaivtsi, Khmelnytskyi oblast. This increases their accessibility to legal aid, as the village has no transportation.
They also visited the villages and libraries of Oleshyn, Cherepova, Velyka Kalynivka, Zhvanets, and Zinkiv in the Khmelnytskyi oblast.
“For example, about 30 active residents of Zinkiv invited us to the community by writing on social media. They are outraged by the inaction of the village head. They asked us to advise them on the forms of local democracy. Most people want the head to resign, but no clear mechanism would work under martial law. We provided them with samples of applications to the State Bureau of Investigation and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, other law enforcement agencies, and the Women’s Anti-Corruption Movement, which operates in Khmelnytsky and conducts investigative journalism,” says Anastasiia Ploshchynska.
One of the communities’ most acute and systemic problems is improper real estate registration. Many IDPs are ready to buy new housing. However, the large number of unregistered houses and land plots and their personal use creates problems. The transaction is discussed verbally during the sale, and at best, a receipt is made. New owners do not always realize that such a purchase without documents is questionable. Therefore, many questions arise about how to renew the term for accepting the inheritance, determine an additional period if 10 or 20 years have passed, and how to draw up the documents.
“Earlier, around 2017-2018, we used to engage a psychologist as part of one of the projects of the Legal Development Network. And now, thanks to the support of the LDN, we have resumed this practice. The psychologist provides free online counseling on the website of the partner NGO Women’s Development Center as part of the center’s work. After our offline events, we refer people to the Center and the psychologist provides free counseling. We need to work with psychologists because today people come to us in a tough state, and both the lawyer and the team need a psychologist to counteract burnout and our clients”, says Anastasiia Ploshchynska.
A study was also conducted on how to communicate with military personnel. Based on the findings, psychologist Svitlana Petrychenko developed video tips for military family members on communicating with them.
More than 40 people received psychological assistance from July to September. The total reach of the online webinars is about 1000 views.
The Podil Legal League is developing partnerships in the Khmelnytskyi oblast to strengthen each other. More than 20 human rights and other organizations have joined an informal coalition. This makes it possible to redirect and promptly solve the problems of community residents and IDPs and to pool resources and logistics.
“For example, when we go to a hospital, we inform our volunteer hub partners. They either provide us with humanitarian aid or join us on the trip,” says Anastasiia Ploshchynska.
PS. Podil Legal League joined the Legal Development Network in 2015.The material was created with the support of the international charitable platform GlobalGiving and Legal Empowerment Fund (program of the Fund for Global Human Rights) and the Legal Development Network. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Legal Development Network and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations mentioned above.
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