Parul Akter, who once worked in a garment factory, was talking to a legal expert at a two-storey facility run under the Brac Urban Development Program in Tongi, near the capital.
With a three-year-old child in her lap, Parul alleged that her husband does not take care of the family, bears no responsibility and yet demanded dowry.
Before coming to this office, she talked to many legal experts but found no solution and filed a case in the Gazipur Judge Court a year ago. The husband was then arrested and a few days ago was released on bail.
Parul reached out to the Brac-run program to discuss her future steps.
In a somewhat similar predicament, another woman Khadija Akter complained of not being able to support herself and her child.
The centre at Tongi has received 90 such complaints in the last three years. Through negotiations, 50 grievances have been resolved through arbitration (Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR) with the consent of the complainant and the accused. Ten complaints went to the court and some of the cases have already been resolved.
The centre provides the service to garment workers under the project Empowering the RMG workers living in urban slums of Dhaka, which is run by the Brac Urban Development Program of the non-governmental organisation BRAC.
According to the project officials, free legal advice services are provided to the workers under this project. Besides, this service is being provided free of cost to the plaintiff even if there is a case in the court.
The centre in Tongi also offers few other services in addition to legal help, said officials.
Parul Akhter told The Business Standard her husband has not been in touch with them for three years. Currently she is staying with her parents with the baby.
She now wants him to pay her the dowry and filed the lawsuit for this.
Shaikh Ahmadul Kaysar, the legal coordinator of the centre, said in cases other than criminal, they try to resolve it through ADR between the two sides. Besides, they provide legal assistance to the plaintiff in criminal cases.
After 6 months of arbitration, they successfully resolved 80% percent of the cases.
Sk Mojibul Huq, program manager of urban development, told The Business Standard that since 2018, the project has provided legal counselling services to 3,015 people in three centres. A total of 108 complaints have been resolved in ADR and 30 cases were filed, two-thirds of which have been resolved. In the remaining cases, they only provided legal advice.
He said in addition to legal aid through the One Stop Service Centre at the same place under this project, they offer services including basic health and nutrition, financial inclusion, skills development and employment, online health legal and psychosocial services, play lab with day care and national level advocacy intervention.
The project, which started in 2017, will end next December. Initially, the target was to serve 50,000 people through the project, but by last December, the number had crossed 57,000. The health care service was availed the most – by some 40,000 people.
In addition, about 2400 people have so far received skills training from the company and 98% of them have found employment in various factories. However, training was initially given free of cost until 2019 when Tk1,000 was fixed to avail the service.
Sk Mojibul Huq said that the organisation has done research on the services provided through the One Stop Service Center of this project and 90% of the respondents have expressed their satisfaction.