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Legal Services in Rural Areas : Assessment Report on the Ongoing Training of Paralegals, Cotonou, Benin, 16-20 December 1991

01 / 1993

Even if the discourse on democracy, liberty and human rights is more widespread than ever in Benin, reality shows that more than 80 % of the population live in total ignorance of even their most elementary rights and duties as citizens. Facing this abnormal situation which results in applying the rule "No one should be ignorant of the law" to both workers and professional lawyers alike, the ASSODIV, since its founding in 1987, has decided to act mainly in favour of the illiterate rural population.

From 11-15 December 1989, ASSODIV (Association for the Development of Village Initiatives, Benin)trained 31 Benin paralegals (primary school teachers, rural development workers, agricultural technicians, social workers, farmers, working and retired civil servants, nuns, trainers...). During these two years, they applied what they had learned on juridical problems faced by peasants in rural areas, helping the peasants to assert their rights and to carry out their duties. During this ground work, some difficulties arose.

Because of fundamental changes in the legal and constitutional systems, ASSODIV thought it necessary to organise ongoing training for the paralegals. The session took place from 16 to 20 December 1992.

a)Objectives: to update the juridical knowledge obtained during the 1989 seminar; to find ways of solving juridical problems encountered by paralegals in the field through participatory methods; to inform the population (including professional lawyers)of the necessity of legal-aid services in rural areas and of having paralegals.

b)Contents: review of themes already studied (civil status changes, mariage, expropriation)and new themes such as the Constitution of the 11th December 1990, civil and administrative justice, citizens’rights and duties in rural areas, forestry offences...

c)Methodology: The use of participatory methods was agreed upon. There were speeches followed by debates in plenary sessions, as well as practical workshops during plenary sessions. As for testing the level of knowledge, this was orally done each day, as well as a review of the themes studied the day before. ASSODIV put up a team, who, acting as if they were paralegals, asked the trainers questions. This exercise aimed at encouraging paralegals, who were hesitant to speak, to participate.

d)Human Resources: 16 trainers, mostly professional lawyers, 22 volunteer paralegals coming from different socio-professional backgrounds, a few observers, future paralegals, two guests : the representative of the Minister of Justice and the coordinator of Juristes Solidarités.

e)Material means: an exceptional, media coverage; radio journalists speaking French and the national languages, present throughout the whole duration of the session; the closing ceremony was filmed by the national television and a video of the training session was produced for the archives and as a future, didactic instrument.


* Objectives : the paralegals were able both to update and increase their knowledge ; the media coverage helped to create public awareness.

* Methodology: Only 4 trainers really used the participatory method, however, the self-evaluation and the daily oral review made up for this lack.

* Resources: The trainers gave very theorical presentations despite recommendations to the contrary; the paralegals posed some very pertinent questions and participated in the work, regretting the abstractions of certain accounts and an intensive rhythm of work.

* Perspectives and lessons: to organise a trainers’ training session; to train paralegals how to animate the villages; to emphasize on judicial mechanisms, juridical personnel and the law, during paralegal training sessions; plan juridical training sessions in the national languages for the benefit of the peasants.

Key words

law, democracy, training, rural environment, access to law

, Benin


Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.

See also "Rapport de Mission en Afrique" = "Report on the African Mission held from 12 November 1991 to 8 January 1992; countries concerned in the order that they were visited : Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Burundi, Zaire, Rwanda". Paris: Juristes-Solidarites, 1992. P.28-32.

Contact : ASSODIV- BP 06733 - Cotonou - Benin - tel 229 321 522 Person to contact : ATTAKLA AYINON, Julien



AFATON, Saturnin; DESIGNE, Jean; HOUGNI, Etienne, Les services juridiques en milieu rural: rapport d'évaluation de la session de recyclage des parajuristes (Cotonou, Bénin, du 16 au 20 décem, Juristes Solidarités, 1992 (France)

Juristes Solidarités - Espace Comme vous Emoi, 5 rue de la Révolution, 93100 Montreuil, FRANCE - Tél. : 33 (0)1 48 51 39 91 - France - - jur-sol (@)

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