Today, on International Women’s Day, the EU’s Governance in Justice Programme (GOJUST) officially awarded Php 12.1 million (EUR 215,000) to six universities that will put access to justice for women and girls at the center of their Clinical Legal Education Programmes. The six universities are: West Visayas State University; Adamson University; University of San Carlos; University of the Visayas; Father Saturnino Urios University; St. Louis University.
Filipino women want and deserve access to justice. But of the 35% of Filipinos who experienced a legal problem in the last two years, only 20% of them were able to access help, according to the 2019 World Justice Report. And women and children find it harder to access justice.
The Governance in Justice or GOJUST is a programme of the European Union to support the Philippine Government’s efforts to improve access to justice for all. The GOJUST programme includes a grant mechanism of EUR 3.1 million (Php 170 million) over a period of four years to support civil society organizations and universities/law schools to improve access to justice for disadvantaged groups in particular women and girls.
The grant signing ceremony was held virtually today with the keynote address given by his H.E. Luc Véron, EU Ambassador to the Philippines.
Messages were also given by Atty. Anna Marie Melanie Trinidad, Chairperson, Legal Education Board; Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Chairperson, Committee on Legal Education; Dean Gemy Lito Festin, President, Philippine Association of Law Schools; and Ms. Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau.
“Gender equality is one of the European Union’s core values. Ensuring women and girls have equal access to justice is fundamental to building a fair, inclusive, prosperous and peaceful society. The European Union has been a committed partner to the Philippine’s Justice Sector reform since 2006. Our engagement stems from the importance we attach to democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said EU Ambassador Luc Véron.
“We look forward to the transformative work of these universities in the year ahead. Women and girls are key agents of development and change. Their interventions will change lives for the better”, he added.
The six universities will implement the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) of the Supreme Court as a pathway to promote access to justice for women and other vulnerable groups. The CLEP is a credit-earning teaching course with the goal of providing law students with knowledge for the application of the law, delivery of legal services and promotion of social justice, especially to marginalized communities.
The planned activities of the grantees intend to empower women as much as improve their access to justice services. West Visayas State University will set up a legal help desk for women, children and marginalized groups in need of legal support and assistance. The University will leverage its Gender and Development (GAD) Office and collaborate with the Women and Children Protection Unit (WCPU) of the West Visayas Medical Center Hospital to develop the help desk.
Similarly, another grantee, the University of the Visayas will also set up a legal help desk in the female dormitory of the Cebu City jail to provide free legal aid services to women deprived of liberty.
Adamson University will create a corps of paralegal volunteers, and focus on the legal empowerment and education of disadvantaged communities through workshops on the justice system, human rights, and women’s/ children’s rights. Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) will work with indigenous communities on rights awareness including women’s rights.
With a total grant of EUR19 million (Php 1.1 billion ) over a period of four years, the EU’s GOJUST Programme: 1) supports the Philippine Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, to improve access to justice for all Filipinos and thus, contribute to inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development; 2) aims at strengthening the Commission on Human Rights to exert its constitutional mandate of civil and political rights protection and enhance human rights promotion in the Philippines consistent with the United Nations’ Paris principles.
GOJUST is implemented through technical assistance by the British Council and logistical and grant management support from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) as well as the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).