Monday, August 17, 2009

Human Rights Training - An Eye Opener for Communities


The issue of human rights is very diverse in its nature. There are several issues that communities find difficult to understand up to this time. In the context of Malawi society, the issue of human rights brought in some conflicts with our culture. For instance, misunderstanding on the place and importance of the wife in the home. The husband was the only one responsible for the financial welfare for the home even if it the woman was the earner of the money. Women have no say over their own money yet they have every right to access the money because they worked for it. Women had no say when it comes to sexual behavior in the family, but with the coming of the open discussions on human rights they were able to open up and say something, this according to most communities was an insult to culture – a woman had no place to say how she feels.

In some communities the issue of human rights was seen as a way of diluting culture in the sense that parents were told that children especially the girl child had every right to attend school and marry at a more older age like 19, but for most parents this was seen as elusive and being striped off their power as a parent.

Apart from family, other issues affecting human and more specifically children’s rights were given very little attention. An example of this is well exemplified by a specific story told involving a teacher and a student where the teacher impregnated a girl child and as a result the girl, a minor, was dispelled while the teacher’s job remained secure; this was due to limited information that communities had on what are the rights girl child has in such cases.
As such ADRA Malawis Let’s fights HIV and AIDS in Malawi (LEFAM) project saw the gaps that were as a result of lack of information and knowledge on basic human rights. With funding from DANIDA, ADRA organized training workshops in five districts of Chiradzulu, Lilongwe, Dowa, Mchinji, Mulanje, Phalombe and Machinga between June and July 2009.

A total of 700 people have been trained in all the five districts. In order to make sure that all level of people in the community has been reached participants to the workshops training comprised of the following: the clergy, people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWAs), youth club members, traditional leaders and men and women group representatives
And to make sure that the trainings carried meaningful content that equal with community needs, facilitators for the training were expatriates in human rights from partner NGOs.

The three day training mainly focused on:

- Background, general facts and overview of human rights
- Local & universal declarations on human-rights-&-HIV-Aids issues with reference to UN UDHR, UN CEDAW, UN Convention of the Rights of Children, Malawi Republican Constitution and HIV-Aids as a human rights issue
- Vulnerability as a Human rights issue
- Role of community in mitigating HIV-Aids & Human-rights issues Human rights vs. responsibility

Through these training participants acknowledged that human rights violations happen but lacked the knowledge on the procedures on how to follow and seek redress of issues concerning human rights.

While closing one of the workshops a group village headman (see the picture below) narrated that it was the first time that his subjects had been exposed to human rights training. He said that the training had been an eye opener and the knowledge gained was priceless.
A village head speaking to the trainees

Participants to these workshops pledged to share with others the knowledge that they have gained so that the whole community benefits.
In the meantime the trained groups are working on outreach strategies to ensure that messages on human rights reach the masses for example through community dialogue sessions, youth days, and kids’ days. The youth have pledged to use theatre for development tools to come up with plays, songs and poems that will have a theme on human rights.
The clergy on the other hand, have also promised to include messages on human rights in their sermons.


April Hong said...

wow~! I think what you've done is very meaningful.
I hope women's and children's human rights be protected soon.

ADRA Malawi said...

Thank you April, your feedback is appreciated. Many times the challenge starts in making these women, children and man aware of the existence of their Rights and the existing structures that already exist to protect them, on other occasions where no structures exist we try to create these structures at the community level. Thank you again for your interest.