Fazlul Huq

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1988


This profile was prepared when Fazlul Huq was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
Fazlul started bringing the law to those who most need it in rural Bangladesh well before the recent realization by many development organizations of its importance. He now is setting out to multiply his impact both by helping these organizations learn what he has learned and through significant new program experiments in Madaripur.Probably his most important innovation is the introduction of "barefoot lawyers." These paralegals work in the villages, respond to problems brought to the local headquarters towns, and help clients in court. They provide legal literacy training, bridge villagers with a panel of volunteer lawyers, and handle many matter themselves. They also help organize mediation. Not including mediation, last year Fazlul's team handled 100 new matters a day and 800 court proceedings.
Bengal has a long cultural tradition of invoking mediation to resolve disputes. After successful experimentation over the last several years, Fazlul is developing a major alternative to the expensive, slow adversarial courts dispute resolution program, drawing heavily on the Bengalis' familiarity with mediation. He's setting up, among other things, mediation committees in each village with a higher level committee for each group of ten villages. To the degree he's successful, he'll cut dispute resolution costs, delays, and divisiveness. He'll also be strengthening local communities' ability to manage their own lives.
He also plans intensive human rights training for 1000 eleventh and twelfth graders in selected weekly batches of 30-50. As they settle down many will become allies in the work of building public awareness of and insistence on these rights.
Right from the beginning Fazlul has focused on women suffering from arbitrary divorce and neglect, one of the poorest, most desperate groups in society. He has consequently developed special approaches and a sense for needed policy changes affecting these women.
He's now beginning actively to spread these and other elements in his approach, both in his region and nationally. One of his techniques is to invite development organizations across Bangladesh that have or are starting legal aid or human rights staffs to send him either potential paraprofessionals or starting lawyers (12 each now) for a year's apprenticeship working with him in Madaripur.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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