Yesterday we went to Chilmari (up North from Gaibandha) to meet a group of Friendship Paralegals. It might be important to explain what their job is on the chars.
Remote char communities are often marginalized, vulnerable and powerless. Unlike citizens of mainland Bangladesh, chars dwellers don’t receive the public services available to them. They’re often simply unable to access public institutions from their highly remote islands. In addition, these communities have little knowledge of national institutions, and are unaware of their rights or how to gain access to public services.
Friendship trains community members of the remote chars to act as Paralegals (legal advisors) and Governance Aides. Resident within the community, they act as facilitators between parties in disputes and help identify solutions to basic instances of injustice. Paralegals explain the basic rights, and describe the means for protecting and obtaining these rights. They help resolve common justice problems that community members face on a day to day basis. They help identify and contact the appropriate legal service providers. In more complex cases, the paralegals help bring forward the cases to lawyers for litigation in higher-level advocacy courts.
So regarding their job and their challenges, I had prepared an Open Floor session with some of the resources that they most need in their daily activities.
Again, this was a “sound the ground “experience, and it turned out to be a big success. They were so committed!
We started with a warming up, going consciously from head down to feet and giving a lot of attention to our breath. I think that this has probably been the first time they had a conscious warming up, where you get aware of all the body parts that you can focus on. But they followed all my instructions with a remarkable conscientiousness and they really enjoyed it especially the conscious breathing! The music I played wasn’t traditional Bengali music and yet they didn’t seem puzzled or awkward at all!
After that, we trained “centre” as a resource. I am so grateful for Kathy Altman’s exercise we had during one of the training modules: The pearl that is falling into our centre and starts to make small and slowly growing waves… Some of you remember for sure. I was amazed how receptive all of them were. There was a very special atmosphere in the room. Everybody was focused on him or herself and when we increased the movement, and started to increase the velocity there was a beautiful sense of community.
They can repeat these two exercises at their home, without me. They expressed the wish to do it regularly. If they do so, and I’m sure they will do their best, this is a first big step to conscious movement practise.
We went on with working on boundaries. Move towards and away is a resource that they need in their daily work especially when the char inhabitants come to get advice. It’s important for them to move towards the people who need them, but on the other side they have to know when they should step back and dare to say NO when it is needed. They need compassion and therefore have to “move towards” the char people, but they also need distance and boundaries if they want to stay objective.
Last but not least we worked on “vector”. It’s not that easy for the Paralegals who come from the char community to go to court or to meet officials, either police or government people. They need clarity, consequence and a good portion of courage. Vector is a good resource for somebody who needs to be target orientated. That’s why we practiced the gesture and the posture and the movement of the archer who raises and bends the bow before he shoots the arrow, and then stepped in that direction. Once this movement is embodied it is a great tool!
Time went by so quickly. Of course, these two hours were just a tiny first step into a deep practice. But the result was really astonishing. I know something about the grit of Bangladeshi people in this area. But I did not expect that they would be so receptive, so quick to understand and so keen on exploring something they have never done before: no reluctance, no fear, no awkwardness. “Just” a big open heart and a tremendous curiosity that is so typical for them!
Thank you to all the paralegals and that you to their supervisors and teachers who translated and participated actively in the process.