“Taking the opinions of children under 10 into account in civil court proceedings needs to be implemented even though this measure is not provided for in the country’s legislation….”.
This sentiment expressed by a civil court Judge, towards the end of my six very interesting and busy days in Tashkent (7 – 12 January), provides hope that small new beginnings are in motion where delivering justice for children is concerned in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan.
My six days in Tashkent were equally divided between interacting with civil and criminal court judges and conducting a training of trainers (TOT) for social workers.
The workshop on 11-12 January brought together 17 civil court judges in total, 11 men and 6 women, who discussed and debated issues relating to principles of justice for children, children at risk, and parental responsibility.
Before meeting the civil court judges I attended a two-day workshop for 20 judges from the various district (criminal) courts; all young and enthusiastic, mostly men (only 2 women) and all determined to do better for the young offenders who come up before them. I was working as a resource person alongside two national experts who led the workshop and who PRI had trained during our first TOT event in the country in October 2012 (see Jenny Clarkin’s blog on the previous training here).
The first two days of my trip here I delivered a TOT workshop with social workers, a total of 8 women. There is still a clear gender divide in Uzbekistan where certain professions are concerned with for example social workers more likely to be women, while judges tend to be men. However, things do appear to be slowly changing although it is likely to take a lot more time before some sort of gender equality is established in this regard.
Can our trainings make any difference in such a political context as exists in Uzbekistan? It is difficult to say, but positively all the judges at the training events were very open and very engaged. The presentations, case studies, video clips, and group discussions all made some impact and during the feedback at the end a number of them stated that they would put into practice some of the international standards and principles discussed over the four days.
The social workers at the TOT were extremely enthusiastic and very knowledgeable in their own field of work; however social work is a very new concept in the country and jobs are few and far between. The women attending the course are all employed by the organisation SOS Children’s Villages and work closely with community leaders and families in different parts of the country. The women will be responsible for further training within the community and I am confident they will be able to inspire members of the Commission on Minors (the body responsible for dealing with children in contact and conflict with the law) to understand and implement risk assessment measures, early interventions for prevention and the use of diversion mechanisms.
The project will continue by monitoring and supporting a number of future training events that will be led by those professionals PRI trained in the two TOT events. We hope that future participants will be as open and engaged as those attending the three trainings this week and that they will take away with them the key principles of justice for children and begin implementing the international standards in their work with vulnerable children in contact and in conflict with the law in Uzbekistan.