Women’s legal advice centre: for women, by women
The women’s legal advice centre (Stichting Vrouwenrechtswinkel) has its office in a large building on Franciscus Romanusweg. Women law students at the centre support women with legal problems, mostly by providing advice. For two hours on Thursday and Friday mornings, the office is open to any woman with a legal question. Chair of the foundation Nicky Limbourg is a third-year Dutch Law student who first worked for a year as a volunteer before taking on her current role. ‘During that year I came up with a lot of ideas for ways to raise awareness of the women’s legal advice centre, and I like to do other things alongside my studies.’
Need a lawyer?
People come to the centre with questions about a wide variety of issues, from a woman seeking a divorce with a parental contact arrangement to a foreign woman with a partner who wants to work in the Netherlands. The volunteers, who are always at least in their second year as law students, provide legal advice and can also assess whether it’s necessary to consult a lawyer. Sometimes the students are able to solve the problem through mediation. If a lawyer is needed, the students can work out what the woman can expect to pay, and help her prepare for the first meeting. And the centre can easily refer women to one of the lawyers in its wide network, which includes many UM alumni.
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In 2016, the City of Maastricht and UM jointly founded Match. Match acts as an initiator and intermediary to connect the supply of socially engaged student volunteers with demand in the community.
Vrouwenrechtswinkel (Dutch site only)
This is the fourth episode in a short series about Maastricht students’ reasons for choosing different kinds of volunteering. On our website you can find the previous episodes, about Enactus, Liter of Light, and IFMSA. In total, only four student organisations will be mentioned, but there are obviously many more student organisations active in Maastricht. For more examples, see the UM website.
A listening ear in a safe environment
Afterwards they always contact the woman again to check if things are working out well. ‘The matters they come with are often emotional, so we see ourselves as more than just a law centre. Women really appreciate the listening ear we provide.’ There are usually around 15 volunteers working at the centre for three hours a week. How would Nicky describe them, also with an eye to recruiting new volunteers? ‘They’re often more the serious type, I’d say, and also with feminist leanings.’
You can spend most of your time as a student in the library with a book or in the bar with a beer, of course – both are important in your student days. But it’s great to see that there are students in Maastricht who choose to devote some of their free time to society. I firmly believe that this benefits not only society, but also the students themselves. By working together, we can all help to improve society. I’d like to compliment all the students who realise this at such a young age.