Workshop for junior lawyers and law students in the Maldives successfully completed

Organised by the Foundation in collaboration with the Bar Council of the Maldives

From 2 – 4 October 2021, the Max Planck Foundation hosted a capacity building workshop for junior lawyers and law students in the Maldives on the topic: “Providing Legal Representation to Women and Children”. The event combined theoretical sessions about international and domestic legal standards relating to this topic with practical sessions which focused on the development of legal skills critical to assisting vulnerable groups.

Participants were asked to consider the legal framework governing the provision of legal assistance to women and children, including international treaties and domestic legislation, the barriers that these groups might face when attempting to access justice, and what role they, as lawyers, might play in addressing these. These theoretical discussions were led by Foundation research fellows and aimed to ensure that participants had a comprehensive knowledge of the legislative protections which might be utilised to advance the legal interests of women and children.

The skills-based portion of the workshop was facilitated by local experts to ensure that it fully addressed the unique needs of vulnerable groups in the Maldives. Siyanath Hashim, Deputy Director-General of the Prosecutor General’s Office walked participants through the skills required to properly provide legal assistance to children within the Maldivian system. Aishath Ifadha, Senior Legal Counsel for the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services explained the practical means through which lawyers could procure protection for survivors of domestic violence from state institutions. Three experienced Counsellors from the Society for Health Education provided invaluable insights into a variety of topics including gender-sensitive interview techniques. The final day of the workshop involved sensitisation and bias training conducted by Dr Marium Jabyn, Chairperson of the Equal Rights Initiative. Participants were asked to interrogate the way that unconscious bias might affect their ability to properly provide legal support to vulnerable groups. This was followed by a panel discussion with Shafeea Riza, Founder of the Family Legal Clinic, and Ahmed Shifau, Legal Aid Consultant to the Attorney General’s Office about ways to incorporate the provision of pro bono legal assistance into everyday legal practice.

The workshop was closed by Noorbaan Fahmy, a member of the Executive Committee of the Bar Council, who encouraged the participants to find creative ways to advance access to justice in the Maldives. This is the first in a series of workshops to be held with junior lawyers and law students in the Maldives to equip them with the knowledge and skills to contribute towards increased access to justice in the country. It forms part of the project entitled “Stabilising the Rule of Law by Supporting the Reform Agenda of the Republic of Maldives” funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.