Youth-run legal clinics: grow by helping others

“Whoever you become, make sure you are helpful for your society. That’s what my father used to tell me”, says Abdulbosit Sobirxonov, Head of the Youth Policy Integration Department at the regional section of the Agency for Youth Affairs in Namangan. He talks about how his parents always created conditions for him and his siblings to learn, recognizing the importance of receiving an education and making your own choices. “My mother used to wake me up saying ‘Wake up, big boss, great deeds are waiting for you’. She gave me the inspiration and energy I needed to grow and try to be helpful to my family, neighbours, my community.

Abdulbosit holds a Master’s Degree from the Pedagogical University and is pursuing his doctoral degree in Philosophy. At the age of 29, Abdulbosit has worked as a school teacher, in different positions at the Youth Union and now the Youth Affairs Agency. He is currently coordinating the work of a new legal clinic, opened in late 2020 within the framework of the joint UN (UNODC-UNDP-UNESCO) project “Youth for social harmony in the Ferghana Valley” funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

How it works

“Young people turn to our Agency with queries of a diverse nature. They need advice on marriage issues, entrepreneurship, credit procedures and so on.

During the COVID-19 pandemic digital technologies allowed us to keep in touch with youth online.  We use telegram bots through which young people can easily contact us. With the number of queries growing, we felt there was a shortage of capacity to provide legal advice on a range of issues. This is where the joint UN project came in. With support from UNODC and the Ministry of Justice, we launched  three new legal clinics - one in each region of the Ferghana Valley: Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan”.

The clinic in Namangan is located in the building of the Youth Center. Equipped and operationalized with support from UNODC, the clinic functions based on a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Youth Affairs Agency and the Regional Department of the Ministry of Justice. The clinic is open from 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening and accepts visitors regardless of their age, ethnicity or gender on a free-of-charge basis. Queries received in person or online are registered, assessed and processed by staff and volunteers in close consultation with experts from local Justice departments and lawyers.

“Before we opened our legal clinic, the joint UN project gave us an opportunity to learn about the systematic assessment of legal queries in a practical workshop where we were taught legal ethics and interviewing basics: listening, fact analysis, and identifying the legal issue at hand, as well as client counselling and preparation of documents.  The new knowledge and skills now help us to organize our work and handle all queries in an appropriate manner”, says Abdulbosit.

He adds: “Since the opening of the legal clinic in late October, we have processed 190 queries. With our help, seven applicants were able to get bank loans, 47 received social assistance, 19 got access to psychological assistance. We received 50% of our clients in person, the other half online. In fact, if clear information on applicable legislation was available and accessible, most of these queries would not come our way. It is a matter of showing people where to find the answers they are looking for. We need to think how to make legal information more widely available and accessible for everyone”.

Personal growth and job satisfaction

The legal clinic offers young people like Abdulbosit an opportunity to gain valuable work experience and benefit from guidance by experienced lawyers.

“Personally, I have always loved puzzles”, he says. “When people come with their issues, you feel that the solution is always out there like a lost piece of a puzzle. In most cases it is simply the right legal information – it is there, you only need to find and share it, and then the picture comes together. The feeling I get when I find a way to help someone resolve their issue is priceless. No material remuneration can make you feel that good. I believe that this kind of job satisfaction is what should drive leaders in their efforts to meet the needs of the people.”

Future plans

There are plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the newly opened Law Faculty at the Namangan State University. This will allow the legal clinic to serve as a platform for law students to put their knowledge into practice and gain work experience with appropriate quality control provided by the Law Faculty. According to Abdulbosit, outreach campaigns are also foreseen to disseminate legal information more widely among the population and to make sure they know what to do and who to turn to for help.

Article in Russian language