Speak to any of our organisers in our Indonesian mentorship program, Program AKSES, and you’d be greeted by the passion and hope they hold for its potential to transform service on the frontlines.
Building upon a successful 2019 pilot mentorship project funded by the Embassy of Switzerland, Program AKSES helps strengthen the caseworking skills of community-based paralegals, who are trained to help migrant worker victims once they return home to Indonesia. There is a shortage of lawyers in migrant worker communities, whose services are also prohibitively expensive for victims. Paralegals at frontline organizations are therefore victims’ only avenue of help to access legal remedies for violations including unpaid wages, abuse, illegal agency fees and more. However, community paralegals face multiple obstacles in helping victims claim compensation, including a lack of access to practical legal and case management training and little to no connections to pro bono lawyers in host countries.
This is where Justice Without Borders and its funding partners at the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) and Merck have stepped in. Through an intensive mentorship structure, we help to address the critical gap in access to justice across three key issues: legal knowledge on cross-border claims in Hong Kong and Singapore, paralegal skills and client engagement, and safe migration strategies. These sessions are valuable, regardless of the paralegals’ level of experience. In fact, even experienced paralegals have little to no knowledge on cross-border casework and safe migration, while many also are still learning about general gender and victim sensitivity.
These mentorship sessions also ensure more than just sustainable skills transfer— they help establish relevant introductions to legal and government stakeholders: the first intensive mentorship period included five sessions to introduce nine partners experienced in cross-border casework. These networking opportunities give caseworkers the invaluable resources needed to advance cross-border cases.
On top of organizing a jam-packed program, this year’s program had to overcome many technical challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the organizers found innovative solutions , guaranteeing a learning journey as fruitful as one held in-person, through a plethora of interactive activities, from paralegal roleplay to trivia quizzes.
“It was a lot of work to put together, especially since we need to prepare the materials, invite external speakers and also ensure our mentees can get an interactive and insightful session,” Salsa, the Head of the JWB Indonesian Office, recalls, “but it was honestly worth it to see the fourteen mentees grow over the weeks!”
The true value of this program, however, is found once these participants leave their Zoom classrooms, and return to their professional work. Not only do they increasingly serve as cornerstones for the community-level legal support systems in Indonesia, they also share their knowledge and know-how with others in their sector through JWB-supported local events. Through opening doors for community-based paralegals, JWB hopes to expand the pool of professionals and organizations that can help workers across borders, especially when they return home.