Through their Outreach Program, Ain-O-Salish-Kendra provides free legal aid services to women.
The Outreach Program was established in 2008 to extend legal aid services and advocacy to rural areas where needs are acute. In the Hobigonj area they help women become aware of their rights and if necessary facilitate Salish (mediation).
“One of the big problems is polygamy”, one woman said during a dialogue. “After I had 3 daughters, my in-laws said that my husband had to leave me to find another wife. They wanted a son” another one told. Through Ain-O-Salish-Kendra’s legal aid services she managed to receive maintenance money from her ex-husband.
In the next session, a group of young women in the village who are attending monthly meetings with the local NGO to promote awareness about women’s rights shared their views. “When a girl gets married here she often has to quit school to move in with her husband’s family to help take care of the household” a woman explained.
But trends are starting to change. When trainee Ingrid Aasaaren from the Norwegian embassy asked the women if they would marry off their own daughters before they finished school, the women clearly stated that they wanted their daughters to finish their education. For poorer households the decision is not easy, but there is a positive trend and more girls stay in school. Bangladesh recently achieved gender parity in primary education.
“In Norway the men are expected to share equally the work in the home”, said Kyrre Brækhus, Chargé d’ Affairs a.i. at the Norwegian Embassy. The women smiled and one quickly turned towards the local men present “Would you be willing to do that?”
Trainee Ingrid Aasaaren tried out as rickshaw-wallah in the village to great excitement amongst the children.