Azim Khan is a poor resident of Geneva Camp in the Mohammadpur area of Dhaka city. He makes a living by driving an auto-rickshaw though he did not have a driving license. Because of this every now and then he was facing problems with the traffic authorities which made his livelihoods difficult and uncertain. The only solution to his problems was to obtain a valid driving license. But despite several attempts Azim could not get a driving license from the authorities because he did not have either a birth certificate or a national identity (NID) card. Like many other residents of Geneva Camp Azim was not aware of the 2008 court ruling that guarantees Bangladeshi citizenship of the Urdu-speaking community members. Hence, he did not know that he was entitled to get legal identity documents from the authorities that are required to prove his citizenship and to receive essential services from the government.
One day Azim’s wife attended a community meeting organized in her area by a paralegal from the Council of Minorities (COM). In that meeting, the paralegal explained to the community members about their citizenship rights and entitlements. From this discussion, Azim’s wife came to know about the importance of legal identity documents to access the rights and entitlements of a citizen. She also learned about the services provided by the COM paralegals. The next day she visited the Geneva Camp Paralegal Centre and sought assistance from the paralegals for obtaining an auto-rickshaw driving license for Azim. The paralegals explained to her the process and documents required for obtaining a driving license. On hearing that Azim did not have a birth certificate they started to work with him in order to ensure that he can obtain one. With help from the paralegals Azim received his birth certificate within 15 days. For the first time in his life he now owned a legal identity document that proves his citizenship in Bangladesh. The paralegals then helped Azim to submit an application to the office of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) for his driving license. Within a month Azim received his driving license.
Azim now drives his auto-rickshaw six days a week without fear of harassment from the authorities. He is making a decent income to support his family and have also admitted his son in school. A birth certificate and driving license obtained with assistance from COM paralegals have thus changed the life of Azim and his family.