The Intricacies of Legislative Drafting & Policy Making: A Reflection of Adal Aur Sehat Project’s Fellowship Program

This year, the Adal Aur Sehat Project, a self-funded initiative aimed at spreading legal and health literacy amongst the public of Pakistan, launched its maiden fellowship program to train and mentor students in legislative drafting and policy making (http://adalaursehatproject.com/).

After a massive response from all over the country, 12 fellows were selected amongst a pool of 210 applicants and were put through a strenuous journey riddled with intellectual reasoning, legal and sociological research, and collaborative problem solving to produce amendments to an existing women protection law, The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010.

Fellows both in person and virtual stand for a group photo with Chief Guest, Barrister Jahanzeb Awan, and our Founder & CEO Ms. Khushbakht Jillani at the Graduation Ceremony of the Fellowship Program organized by the Adal Aur Sehat Project. Location Courtesy: Offices of Haidermota & Co. Karachi

Now, as the fellowship has ended, Ali Anwaar, one of the 12 fellows, reflects on how the fellowship has progressed, and how he has developed as a part of it.

How did the journey start?

After a Facebook post brought my attention to the fellowship program, I immediately realized that I needed to be a part of it, for the objectives and agenda felt like it was calling out to me. I had been researching legislative drafting as an individual and having the opportunity to be part of a group of passionate individuals was nothing short of what I would deem as “signs from the heavens”.

I skimmed through the application form and realized that I had a little over a few hours left to apply, leading me to fill the form at a hurried pace. While I did not expect myself to outshine the rest with my responses, it was to my great surprise and excitement when I received an email that told me I had been selected for an interview. A week and an interview later, I was part of a program that would not only leave me intellectually enriched but bestow me with a renewed purpose and perspective as well.

What has been the most enjoyable part of the project?

The entire program was curated in a hybrid fashion. While the fellows from Karachi were accommodated at the National Incubation Center Karachi, the rest of the fellows from Multan, Jamshoro, Islamabad, Lahore and myself from Rahim Yar Khan joined online, owing to limited logistics and the ongoing pandemic. Unsurprised by the involuntary digitalization that the entire world has been plunged into, I joined eleven other fellows in a series of pedagogically enriching online meetings conducted using the contemporarily famous Zoom platform, with us actively engaging with the speakers as students would engage with a teacher. This, by far, was one of the most enjoyable parts of the project to me as access to such renowned and excellent experts allowed the development of meaningful research-led insights regarding the issue of harassment and legislation as a whole.

“Sexual Harassment has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power”

– Ms. Hiba Thobani explaining how power dynamics in a workplace can change how people normally behave.

What has been the biggest learning curve?

As a fellow, there was an extraordinary amount of dedication required to keep up with the contents of the workshops. They were designed in a way that required us to shed out existing understandings of our society and the process of law-making, instead encouraging us to approach them in a holistic and introspective way. At the same time, the workshops were supplemented by comprehensive assignments that gave us full control — from the generation of the content, the planning, the communication, the analysis, and the final presentation — all the while managing further workshops, progress meetings and commitments!

“Victims of harassment need empathy, confidence, reliability and trust much before they need better laws.”

– Barrister Zahrah Sehr Vayani sharing her personal insights with fellows from her practice as a lawyer defending victims of sexual harassment.

However, working on a project where numerous external partners are involved while having the independence to pursue your assigned work your own way (while being guided by your mentors in a constructive way), is one of the biggest learning curves to me, requiring me to be an academic, a team-player and a legislative drafter in training altogether.

How has it helped you develop as a lawyer?

I’d like to build upon my last point: the fellowship has helped me become a better academic, a much more organized team player, all the while instilling the skills a legislative drafter would need in the future. The lessons that the fellowship taught us move beyond the academic curriculum that we go through at our law schools, allowing us to truly integrate with and understand the intimate workings of society, the state, and law. Engaging with experts further allowed me to build focus on what the final impacts of our project could be in tangible terms for the society, separating the euphoric sense of bringing change from the ground realities of our work.

“A lawyer without history of literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect”

– Barrister Jahanzeb Awan, Chief Guest for the Graduation Ceremony, quoting Walter Scott to the Fellows while highlighting the importance of professional skills and integrity.

What advice would you give others thinking of applying for the fellowship in the future?

Firstly, anyone who wishes to be a part of the fellowship needs to be prepared to put a lot of time, attention, and dedication into yourself as an individual who is passionate about human rights. Start with an excellent application form as an exceptional CV could go a long way in helping you secure a position on the fellowship. However , this does not necessarily define what you need on your proposal, rather gives an idea of how much concentrated time you should be devoting to yourself.

Secondly, try to start thinking of how tangible your efforts can be for the fellowship and prepare yourself accordingly. You not only need to make a convincing case of your potential as a contribution to the team and the overall effort but you need to translate the expectations into reality as well. The fellowship will test your intellectual limits, that’s for sure!

Fellows during a session with Trainers Ms. Orubah Sattar Ahmed and Ms. Marva Khan on the importance of a feminist perspective on the judicial jurisprudence

Finally, remember that what you learn would demand that you look at society from a different perspective, one that you might have been unaware of. Your new thoughts and ideas might not find a solid reception among the people you love, often leaving you ostracized or judged for possessing an unconventional but a valid opinion. If you want to be part of the fellowship, be ready to challenge the norms around your society as you would be leaving as a fighter and an advocate of human rights, not a feeble follower of societal norms with a fresh certificate of participation.

Author

Ali Anwaar, Fellow 2021

Adal Aur Sehat Project’s Fellowship Program

Adal Aur Sehat Project is Pakistan's first exclusive legal and health awareness podcast founded and hosted by Khushbakht Shah.