Canadian Women's Foundation

SHE Magazine - Spring 2016

The bi-annual magazine of the Canadian Women's Foundation. SHE details stories and work in ending violence against women, moving women out of poverty and empowering girls.

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4 S H E M AG A Z I N E '' NOTEBOOK PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JANE DOE LEGAL ADVICE CLINIC. '' Women sometimes say they're not going to leave an abusive relationship because they fear they won't qualify for legal aid and will have to represent themselves in court against their abusive ex-partner. They're also terrified of losing custody of their children. —Shahnaz Rahman, Manager of Community Outreach, Jane Doe Legal Advice Clinic. FREE ADVICE HELPS WOMEN FACE LEGAL LABYRINTH When Maya* le her abusive husband, she feared for her children's safety. To protect them, she waived her financial and property rights in exchange for an agreement that her husband wouldn't seek custody of the children. He later changed his mind and took her to court to demand access. Maya couldn't afford a lawyer, but didn't qualify for legal aid. For guidance, she turned to the Jane Doe Legal Advice Clinic. The Clinic helps women like Maya, who would otherwise struggle with difficult legal problems on their own. "If a woman doesn't have access to legal representation, her access to things like fair custody arrangements or property division is compromised," says Shahnaz Rahman, Manager of Community Outreach. Even if a woman does qualify for legal aid, the hours delegated to her case may not be enough, so support from the Clinic is crucial. By helping women, the Clinic staff also gain a better understanding of the systemic legal barriers that need to be addressed. The Clinic provides free legal advice to 25-30 women a month through its central office and in partnership with two multicultural organizations, where translators can accompany immigrant and refugee women. "Women whose first language is not English benefit from interpreted legal advice sessions within a supportive and familiar environment," Rahman says. Since most community workers are not trained in family law, the organization also offers free training for service providers in other organizations so they can better help women navigate the legal system. Rahman says feedback from clients clearly shows the Clinic makes a huge difference. Maya got the help she needed to prepare an affidavit and create a legal strategy for her case. Thanks to this support, she says: "This is the first time in months that I feel like I can hold my head up high." The Jane Doe Legal Advice Clinic is delivered by West Coast LEAF (Women's Legal Education and Action Fund) in Vancouver, BC, and is a Canadian Women's Foundation funded program. *Not her real name. PROGRAMS IN ACTION LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CANADIAN WOMEN'S FOUNDATION'S VIOLENCE PREVENTION GRANTS CANADIANWOMEN.ORG/STOP-THE-VIOLENCE At the Jane Doe Legal Advice Clinic, a lawyer can offer much-needed support to women representing themselves in the legal system.

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