Internship Report On Ain O Salish Kendra (Ask) And its Role On Promoting Human Rights In Bangladesh

The Internship report titled “Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and its role on promoting human rights in Bangladesh” has been prepared as a part of MSS program of University of Dhaka. In this internship report I give overall concepts about the role of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and its role on promoting human rights in Bangladesh which has undoubtedly put fresh impetus to my understanding of the role of institutions in promoting human rights, child rights,rural development, poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

I tried to demonstrate the objective of the report which is to illustrate the role of ASK in promoting human rights, legal service, alleviating poverty, rural development and women empowerment through extending facilities to the underserved people through giving loan without collateral and providing training and advice. I try my level best to demonstrate the role of ASK in facilitating education for poor and shelter. I tried to show how NGOs relentlessly working for balance development of the country through facilitating facilities for people.

In this study I’ve shown how ASK work with the poor people to promote human rights to eliminate the poverty from their family and growing their capacity to play active role in economic and social arena and to be self sufficient and ultimately bring peace.

Finally I find out some important points that I think ASK and its operations can apply rigorously to promote human rights, support victims, to eradicate poverty and empowerment of women.

Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK) is arguably the leading human rights and legal aid organization in Bangladesh. When it was established in 1986, there were only a handful of organizations working within an explicitly human rights framework. Thirty years on, the field has expanded vastly. A recent mapping listed at least 30 organizations working to further rights and social justice. ASK has been a pioneer in the sphere of human rights, and remains a leading actor in the field. It also plays a critical role in the women's movement. In this respect, ASK occupies an unusual place. Unlike most of its counterparts, which focus either on human rights or women's issues, ASK straddles both worlds. Indeed, it has been critical in bridging gaps and building alliances between the women's rights and human rights movements. Over the years, ASK has also gained international recognition and respect. The organization holds consultative status with the United Nation's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is also associated with numerous international networks such as Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Migrants' Forum in Asia, South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), the Asia Pacific Forum for Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW). ASK's basic mission, the realization of the rights of marginalized citizens, has held consistent over the years, although the scope and breadth of its work has expanded greatly. Initially, the organization had one primary objective – to provide legal assistance to disempowered groups, especially poor women, children and workers. In this respect, ASK was treading into uncharted territory. It was not that campaigns for greater awareness of legal rights did not exist. A few groups such as Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA) had been engaged in helping people to access legal remedies through legal aid for quite some time. ASK's innovation was to introduce legal clinics in slums where clients were brought by field workers. The latter also kept in touch with clients as part of a follow up process Founder members recall an initial period when having set up an office, complete with eminent lawyers offering their services on a pro bono basis; they discovered they had no clients. No one knew of them and no one came to them for assistance. The people they wanted to work with simply didn't come forward to seek assistance. Those who turned to the law were from the affluent and educated classes and did not require pro bono services. This state of affairs was only partly the result of inexperience. An initial period of disappointment led to the realization that free legal aid was a largely unknown category of service in Dhaka. In the circumstances, ASK found few demands for help.

It was at this juncture that interactions with members of Bangladesh Nari ProgotiSangha (BNPS) proved to be critical. As it turned out, ASK was housed in the same building as BNPS, an NGO that combined credit with education and group formation for women in Dhaka slums. At one point, its director, Rokeya Kabir, requested ASK for legal help in a minor dispute. Through this the two organizations became familiar with each other's areas of work and began to consider the possibility of collaboration. Realizing that demand for legal aid could only be raised if people knew of their rights, ASK began to visit BNPS offices in Goran and Shabujbagh to talk to members and staff about women's rights within the family. At the same time, efforts were made to make women conscious of gender inequality in laws themselves. Initial disappointment led to a reassessment in methodology and approach. ASK began outreach and advocacy work at this point. ASK began to tap into the impressive associational networks of other women's groups working in the burgeoning slums of Dhaka city. These groups included Nari Shakti, Mahila Parishad, Kormojibi Mohila Samabay Samiti (KMSS) and Ekota.

ASK members began to visit women slum dwellers, with the aim of informing them of their legal rights, and explaining how they could get access to legal help. In time, ASK built a reputation of its own in the slums; through word of mouth and personal recommendations, increasingly, clients began to come to the ASK office seeking legal aid. The nature of ASK's work expanded more or less organically as it became increasingly clear that the women workers' 'private' concerns could not be disentangled easily from their 'public' struggles in the employment arena. This led to the inception of ASK's work on domestic violence. The objective went much beyond raising awareness and the providing knowledge, because the aim was to provide citizens with tools and access to resources that they themselves could utilize within the legal system to realize and protect their rights. Khursheed Erfan Ahmed used her educational background and knowledge in pedagogic research to prepare modules on women's rights and violence against women with assistance from newly recruited staff, including Ila Chanda, Roushan Jahan Parveen and Dilwara Begum. Her expertise and perspective as a 'non-lawyer' in what was then a purely legal aid organization, and her insistence on stressing a holistic approach, helped to expand the organization's understanding of human rights and to enhance the scope of services offered. Although its ideology and philosophy have not changed, ASK's approach continues to be flexible and open.