Some years ago the Women’s Department ventured outside the traditional workshops and seminars for women, under the 16 Days of Activism program. The team came up with an initiative dubbed, Legal Clinics that serves to provide legal advice and consultations with local attorneys. Cynthia Williams told Love News that this year’s legal clinic has been expanded due to the support of the BA1 Project.
“For a while now, one of the things that we noticed is that a lot of our people, especially women don’t have the resources to pay an attorney even when it comes to just a simple consultation fee. Even when we look at the aspect that we have a Legal Aid Centre some of these women may not be able to find the resources to travel to Belize City to access that attorney that may be at a lower cost and so some years ago we felt that it would be a good opportunity for us to combine our efforts with attorneys to provide that opportunity for women and the general public to be able to give that service to them and we began having legal clinics. Since then we moved it around in areas that we knew that no attorneys were present in the districts. Every year we have had one to two, at the most, legal clinics in rural areas to be able to offer that opportunity. This year we are very happy that were able to access some funding through a regional project directly working in terms of violence against women and so we were able to have eleven legal clinics throughout Belize starting on November 24 in Corozal Town and then on November 25 we have another one here in Belize City. It continues up until December 11 where it finishes with Cristo Rey on December 9th and in San Ignacio on December 11. Those communities were chosen because they are part of the different clusters in which the BA 1 project is presently working and it kind of adds to the work that is already being done with other activities from that project.”
As Williams mentioned, in the villages of Trio and San Isidro in the Orange Walk District, the legal fair will be accompanied by workshops as well.
“It will be a domestic violence and gender based violence workshop and an opportunity for those parents also to be able to get a sense in their own language to hear what is the legislation that is in place that can protect them in terms of custody, women’s rights and at the same time to be able to provide for them a bit of parenting skills and information. So we really are trying to reach them out in a different way and at the same time also provide opportunities with the assistance of two attorneys.”
Attorneys in Belize are being encouraged to take part in the legal clinics by providing a few hours of their time in offering the women and men with free consultations and advice.
“For us, a department we have been very grateful for the years that we have been having legal clinics to have the assistance of those attorneys especially this year to invite the different attorneys that have been practicing to offer their services. It is one day and some of them in some instances are only able to provide half a day and we are happy with that. So it’s really a call for all attorneys who practice in Belize to really work with the department and to provide that opportunity for our Belizean public especially in the areas of gender based violence and family issues.”
Attorneys who are willing to give of their time can contact the Women’s Department on Albert Street in Belize City.