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MAY 2015

Strengthening the Social Sector in Bangladesh

"We are pleased to be able to work with such organisations and it’s great that such a network can bring the legal and social sector together like this"

Asif bin Anwar

Barrister, Chowdhury and Ullah

On Monday May 18th, iProbono hosted a roundtable discussion on “Strengthening the Social Sector” with lawyers and twenty organisations comprising of NGOS and social enterprises at the Manusher Jonno Foundation. Working in Dhaka, Bangladesh from November 2014, iProbono has been connecting NGOs and social enterprises with lawyers in Bangladesh who want to contribute their time and skills to social causes for free.

The gathering represented Bangladesh’s vibrant social sector involving different kinds of organisations working on issues such the rights and welfare of street children, women’s rights and education, legal aid for the underprivileged, land rights, public health along with social enterprises that are developing new innovations for poverty alleviation and employing marginalised people.

The roundtable was organised to discuss the kinds of legal issues faced by Bangladesh's social sector and how iProbono and Bangladesh legal sector can better cater to those needs.

Three lawyers from Chowdhury and Ullah were present at the discussion. They have been providing assistance to social enterprises through iProbono. “We are pleased to be able to work with such organisations and it’s great that such a network can bring the legal and social sector together like this”, said Barrister Asif Bin Anwar of Chowdhury and Ulllah.

Shahana Siddiqui of the organisation Maya.com.bd iterated that people working in the social sector often focus solely on the needs of beneficiaries (such as victims of abuse) when thinking of legal support, but there are many ways lawyers can help such organisations with regulatory, administrative legal issues which can consequently make such organisations more efficient and create greater impact.

iProbono has a five ongoing projects in Bangladesh and has engaged with a number of enthusiastic lawyers who are keen to provide pro bono support to organisations that have a positive social impact. While for some it is good practice and exposure, for others it is a valuable way to give back to society. Farzana Ahmed of BLAST stated that iProbono has the potential to reach out to young lawyers and law students to foster a greater sense of responsibility.

The organisations present were; Aparajeyo Bangladesh, SEEP, Sohay, JAAGO, Community Participation and Development, Uttaran, Maya, Acid Survivors Foundation, Karmajibi Nari, Gana Unnayan Kendra, Basha Boutique, DNET, Nabolok Parishad, Voluntary Association for Family Welfare and Social Development, Change like Lives Foundation, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, BLAST, Ashoka, Subharta Trust and Manusher Jonno Foundation.

The roundtable is one of many events that iProbono will organise to bring lawyers, students, academics and civil society organizations together to develop a strategy for pro bono legal work.

The article has been written by Shaveena Anam, iProbono’s Bangladesh Project Manager.