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Experts of the Legal Development Network trained representatives of the social and humanitarian spheres of the municipalities from the Zaporizhia region to promote access to justice

At the invitation of the STEP NGO (Zaporizhzhya), during five August days, experts of the Legal Development Network (LDN), program manager Vitalii Okhrimenko, and organizational development manager Iryna Chaika conducted a series of legal trainings for teachers, medical and social workers from four municipalities of Zaporizhia region. At the same time, training on advocacy and legal education was held for elders, representatives of NGOs, local authorities, and youth activists, trained by experts of the LDN’s member organizations Vitalii Dorokh with Olena Cherna (NGO “PRAVO (LAW),” Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia region) and Natalia Kostyshyn (NGO “MITS (Youth Initiative Center),” Chervonohrad, Lviv region). These events are part of the project “Implementation of the system of free legal aid and protection of women’s social rights in rural communities of Eastern Ukraine,” implemented by the STEP NGO with the support of the German Federal Foreign Ministry (represented by the German Consulate General in Donetsk with an office in Dnipro).

Expert Natalia Kostyshyn (NGO “MITS,” Chervonohrad, Lviv region) conducts training for elders, representatives of NGOs, local authorities, and youth activists. Photo by Kateryna Klochko, STEP NGO Facebook page
Vitaliy Dorokh (NGO “PRAVO,” Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia region) conducts training for elders, representatives of NGOs, local authorities, and youth activists.

The STEP NGO shares how the training took place in its publication “How local communities can promote access to justice.”

A separate one-day training was held for each of the professional groups with a focus on the legal needs and problems of clients in their field.

The cross-cutting idea of ​​training is to strengthen the legal capacity of communities and people. During the training, special attention was paid to how local professionals – doctors, teachers, social workers – can help people become more capable. Namely, how they can know the law, use it, and participate in its formation to influence the emergence of more sensitive policies.

Iryna Chaika, the LDN’s organizational development manager. Photo by Kateryna Klochko, STEP NGO Facebook page

Together with the LDN’s experts Vitaliі Okhrimenko and Iryna Chaika, the community specialists considered the concept of access to civil justice as a way for people to solve their legal problems. Together, they identified the changes that need to be achieved for people to defend their rights and interests successfully.

Training for community teachers

“The focus of strengthening legal capacity should not be on providing services, but on strengthening people’s ability to act,” the trainers said during a discussion of the legal situation in communities. After all, the price of citizens’ passivity in meeting legal problems is too high. According to research, only 20% of legal problems are at least partially solved in this situation. On the other hand, among active people who take specific measures or seek help, this figure reaches 83% (data from the Study of Legal Problems and Needs in Ukrainian Communities, 2018).

Providing information and quality services, helping people to find answers to legal questions – even within the very professional capabilities of specific institutions, departments and professionals – can already significantly strengthen the legal capacity of the community. This means that everyone in the community feels that they are not alone with their legal problem. And even if they don’t know how to solve it now, they have someone to turn to and is ready to act.

Analysis of legal needs of people

The training participants identified some clients’ typical legal needs and problems in the educational, medical, and social spheres. These developments will be included in the roadmap for implementing the system of free primary legal aid in communities.

Here is what Vitaliy Okhrimenko thinks about how teachers see their role in access to justice.

Vitaliy Okhrimenko, the LDN’s program manager. Photo by Kateryna Klochko, STEP NGO Facebook page

1. Our teachers are close to the concept of a broad understanding of access to justice, which includes the entire people’s journey from awareness of their legal problem to its solution. And the main thing they focused their discussions on was finding a way to justice. I have a subjective impression that the average Ukrainian educator is much more mentally ready to perceive and actually apply in practice the principles of legal empowerment and access to justice than the average Ukrainian lawyer.

2. Teachers are clearly aware of and see their role in the process of raising legal awareness of residents of their communities, including parents (with emphasis on socially vulnerable categories), children (inclusion issues), their colleagues, administrative staff, and even regulators and local authorities. They talk about cooperation, mutual support, and a comprehensive approach to building services that meet people’s needs and provide a sense of trust and justice.

3. They talked about very specific things, in particular: the right to rest and leisure of rural school students; the need to have applied organizational and administrative documents that are actually applied in practice, rather than imitating their use (example – job descriptions that live their lives detached from reality); issues of protection of the rights of teachers (urgent problems that concern them and on the solution of which they are ready to work); about the role of trade unions and the need for their support; about the role of teachers and the role of other participants in the educational process in ensuring the rights of students to a safe educational environment; even the need to inform parents and students about the professions of the future and the need for legal assistance in ensuring the child’s right to study abroad following the living conditions of families in which parents work abroad. We discussed issues of preventing and combating bullying and domestic violence. They are really ready to get involved in building comprehensive services and mechanisms for solving systemic problems at the level of their communities.

4. Teachers feel an unmet need for their own legal awareness, which does not allow them to unleash their potential to help people as participants in the educational process. In particular, the issue of the need to include in the academic program topics “Human Rights” and “Legal empowerment of young people as a new generation of responsible citizens.” And here, it was not about separate topics from law lessons but full-fledged new curricula in combination with extracurricular education and leisure.

5. Access to legal information for citizens and their awareness of their rights directly affects the quality of educational services.

6. I always felt that today’s training and the whole current project is part of a much larger process that has already begun to yield results, and we just need not miss this window of opportunity…

The project “Implementation of the system of free legal aid and protection of women’s social rights in rural communities of Eastern Ukraine” is implemented by the STEP NGO with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (represented by the German Consulate General in Donetsk with an office in Dnipro).

Partner in the implementation of the project’s training program – Legal Development Network.

Photo for publication: Kateryna Klochko.

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