From the Village to the University: Legal Activism in Bangladesh

Ford Foundation



For more than forty years, the Ford Foundation has supported groups that use the law to secure human rights and improve the lives of people in vastly different settings around the world. Funding for law-related projects began in the 1950s in the United States and by the 1970s had been extended to parts of Latin America and South Africa. As we enter the year 2000, the Foundation is involved in sustained grantmaking for public interest law groups in over twenty-five countries through its New York headquarters and eleven of its overseas offices around the globe. Many Roads to Justice: The Law Related Work of Ford Foundation Grantees Around the World includes seven case studies, of which this is one.
High rates of poverty and illiteracy in Bangladesh made the work of law-related grantees especially challenging and their efforts and accomplishments that much more noteworthy. In the early 1990s, the Foundation launched a public interest law initiative to expand NGO legal services, engage the bar in such work, and establish clinical legal education programs at the country’s three leading law schools. The long-term aim was to help build a constituency for human rights and law reform. A key grantee strategy, adopted by a growing number of other NGOs, has been to use grassroots mediation outside the formal legal system, both to address economic and physical abuse of women and to help the poor resolve disputes. This approach employs community legal education and other devices to reform traditional Bangladeshi problem-solving forums, even as it utilizes them. On a national scale, grantees have won a string of high court victories regarding such issues as the environment, consumer rights, and police abuse.



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