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Young and Innovative- Using Art and Sports To Advance Human Rights

Defending human rights is a personal call that requires commitment and determination to achieve. Whereas resources are vital in facilitating human rights work, we do not need money to speak out against human rights violations taking place in our sight. Some of the actions are as simple as asking the violator to stop what they are doing and letting them know the repercussions of what they are doing.

According to the UN, “There is no strict definition of human rights defenders because they can be anyone who acts at any moment for any human rights. A human rights defender can be a man, a woman, a lawyer, a student, an NGO’s employee, a doctor or any person from any profession, of all ages, nationalities, religions, etc. A person can also be considered as a human rights defender whether she promotes and protects human rights her whole life, occasionally, or only once”

Due to the advancement of the digital age, HRDs use different advocacy efforts in advancing the human rights course. A group of young HRDs from Kisumu Peer Educators network have resorted in using sports, art and media production in undertaking their human rights work. We did an interview with the Chief Creative Officer, Leakey Ochieng.

 ONE ON ONE INTERVIEW WITH LEACKY OCHIENG, A YOUNG HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER FROM KISUMU COUNTY

For how long have you worked as a human rights defender using art?

My name is Leakey Ochieng, a 28 years old Human Rights Defender, LGBTIQ activist, Artist and Documentary producer. Currently working with Kisumu Peer Educators as Chief Creative Officer. I have been an LGBTIQ activist and HRD for the past six years.  I have been doing this through Artistic work and media production through documentation of LGBTIQ stories within western region of Kenya.

Why use sports, media and art in creating awareness on human rights?

Leakey introducing participants to the Kisumu Annual Inter-Varsities Debate, 2018 edition.

The main purpose for using arts and Media as one of the tool is mainly because it depicts the real life stories of persons or the real life happening within our community. The targeted audience  can easily relate to the stories through catchy graphics and motion pictures as they are interactive and easy to consume.  At Kisumu Peer Educators, our main art and media work is based on real life stories of LGBTIQ persons. The work is done in an effort of creating awareness and to sensitize members of the public on the need to embrace sexual and gender diversity within our society. The work also encourages the community  to end the high rate of violations that are attributed by the burden of stigma and discrimination towards SGM persons due to harsh cultural and religious beliefs.

What advice would you give other HRDs on innovative ways to address human rights?

First I would love to give out my gratitude for the good work that is being done by HRDs across the country on the thirst of protecting fundamental values of Human rights that is entitled to every human being, not forgetting young HRDs who have also contributed greatly to the protection of human rights.

My advice to fellow HRDs is for us to archive the work we do. There is need for us to use inclusiveness approach to our work as this will create a platform of bringing everybody on board. Providing a platform creates an enabling environment for dialogue as well as understanding were the gaps exist and create solutions to these problems.

Which recommendations do you have to CSOs on ways to create employment opportunities for young people as agents of change?

I believe the future of this nation is on the hands of the youths. I would urge the CSOs to create a platform of employment to the youths in different sectors and not only that but as well as to push or lobby for the policies that can be used to create employment opportunity to our youths.

Nothing for US without US ,“ Ends Leakey

 

NAIROBI HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK CAPACITY AUDIT REPORT

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Based on key findings, some issues emerged in the report. First, majority of the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Nairobi County have tertiary education, most are engaged in self- employment, and 80% are affiliated to organisation which are pro-human rights defenders and 69% do not have regular income.

Secondly, the work of human rights defenders is important to promote and protect human rights and the rule of law. This can be achieved through regular training on the rights of HRDs. The report identified that 85% of the human rights defenders need support on human rights and advocacy, support further training on human rights, support on
self-care, support on medical care and employment opportunities.

Finally, there is need for National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya and other stake holders to organize regular human rights training workshops for HRDs. Training for human rights defenders should include training on professionalizing their work as well as on relevant security precautions.Training should involve capacity building that equip human rights defenders with practical knowledge and skills that can enable them acquire gainful employment besides being human rights defenders. Training on practical skills like report writing, data entry technique and analysis, investigative research are recommended.

Download the report here: https://wp.me/aagr4K-MF

International Human Rights Training Program

The International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP) is an internationally recognized intensive three week training program.Held in Montreal, Canada every June, the IHRTP is a world leading program on human rights education.  It is the only training in the world specifically dedicated to building the capacity and skills of human rights educators.

The program is a unique opportunity for human rights educators to acquire practical tools to improve the effectiveness and impact of their work while deepening their understanding of human rights.

WHY DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS?

Who Is A Human Rights Defender:

According to the UN, “There is no strict definition of human rights defenders because they can be anyone who acts at any moment for any human rights. A human rights defender can be a man, a woman, a lawyer, a student, an NGO’s employee, a doctor or any person from any profession, of all ages, nationalities, religions, etc. A person can also be considered as a human rights defender whether she promotes and protects human rights her whole life, occasionally, or only once”

Defending human rights is a personal call that requires commitment and determination to achieve. Whereas resources are vital in facilitating human rights work, we do not need money to speak out against human rights violations taking place in our sight. Some of the actions are as simple as asking the violator to stop what they are doing and letting them know the repercussions of what they are doing.

Recently, a female student was thrown out from a moving bus while she demanded a balance from the bus conductor along Thika Road. Kenyans of goodwill took her to hospital where she passed on. Other than taking her to hospital, they recorded the registration number of the commuter bus and did a follow up to ensure that the crew are apprehended. This is guarding the right to life and those Kenyans qualify to be human rights defenders.

Legal Framework Guarding the work of Human Rights Defenders

There are a number of people who fear up-taking of human rights work fearing repercussions that come on the way like intimidation, threats, physical assaults, arbitrary arrests amongst others. A conducive legal environment is key in protecting the work of human rights defenders from such incidents. HRDs in Kenya should utilize the following national and international legal instruments in the course of their work.

  • The Constitution of Kenya 2010

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders obliges states to adopt legislative, administrative and other steps necessary to ensure that HRDs are able to enjoy their rights and freedoms in the context of their work to promote human rights. Yet while the Kenyan government has not adopted a specific legal framework for HRDs, the Constitution strongly protects the rights of all Kenyans.According to the Constitution, “[e]very person shall enjoy the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights to the greatest extent consistent with the nature of the right or fundamental freedom.” Therefore, the Kenyan government is under a constitutional obligation to defend, protect and promote the rights of all its citizens, including HRDs.

  • Regional Human Rights Instruments

Regionally, Kenya is party to a number of human rights instruments produced by the African Union and because Kenya has ratified them, as per Article 2 of the Constitution, they form part of the Laws of Kenya. These human rights instruments include the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights (Banjul Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Again, HRDs can use these instruments to advocate for the human rights of others and themselves.

Following the introduction of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, there was special recognition of the need to protect HRDs in Africa in 2003 when the Kigali Declaration noted: the important role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in general and human rights defenders in particular, in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa, [and] calls upon Member States and regional institutions to protect them and encourage the participation of CSOs in decision-making processes with the aim of consolidating participatory democracy and sustainable development.

Then in 2004, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted the Resolution on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Africa which highlights with grave concern:the growing risks faced by human rights defenders in Africa… [and the] impunity for threats, attacks and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders persists and that this impacts negatively on the work and safety of human rights defenders.

  • International Human Rights Instruments

Kenya is a state party to various international human rights instruments and under Article 2 (6) of the Constitution, any treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the Laws of Kenya. A number of international human rights instruments have been ratified by Kenya and are relevant to the work of human rights defenders. Some of the relevant human rights instruments that are binding law in Kenya include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention against Torture, Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. HRDs can use these instruments alongside national laws to advocate for human rights. These international laws are also useful in holding state and non-state actors to account for their actions taken against HRDs due to their work in promoting and protecting human rights.

There is also a UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. This Special Rapporteur was established in 2000 soon after the passing of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders126 in order to collect data concerning HRDs, engage governments in dialogue on improving the situation for HRDs and recommending effective strategies for protecting HRDs.127

For more information on the legal framework for HRDs, read NCHRD-K’s Case Digest via: http://nchrdk.org/double-edged-sworda-case-digest-for-hrds-in-kenya-2013-2015/

What are the benefits of defending human rights?

Defending human rights is a noble course in that it is hard to substantially state what benefits a human rights defender receives from the work. Defending human rights is above self benefits and thus the following cannot exhaust all it means to defend human rights:

  1. It ensures human rights based approach planning by the relevant stakeholders. Governments and private entities should ensure basic rights like right to life, health, non-discrimination amongst others are adhered to before any programming is done.
  2. A conducive living environment for all people. Social justice is key in development for any nation to ensure self-sustenance of the nation with support of its people.  Any nation that wants to develop has to ensure that all people feel safe in their country.
  3. Operalization of human rights instruments. A number of international human rights instruments have been drafted and adopted at the UN General Assembly. However, some member states have not ratified some of these laws which are critical in ensuring the states are human rights compliant. HRDs have been at the forefront in ensuring that states comply with the laws.
  4. Opportunities of making the world a better place for everyone to live in. HRDs offer solutions to governments and international mechanisms on their planning for a better world. HRDs are able to travel locally and abroad to help in creating a conducive environment for all. Thus, anyone striving to make the world a better place, may it be for

Feeling too young to Defend Human Rights?

A story of  Salma Abdulatif

Salma is a 23-year-old lady raised in Mombasa County who is currently pursuing her degree in Business Management (Maritime Option) at the Moi University, Eldoret Campus. She started her human rights work in 2015 and is also the founder and president of Motivational Talks for Youth Organization (MTY); a community based organization that focuses on youth empowerment and community outreach activities.

Passionate about a developing and leadership-oriented Mombasa, Salma designed an empowerment program under her organization, Motivational Talks for Youth that focuses on leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, community development/mentorship and talent nurturing. Through her initiative; she has by now impacted 3,033 youth of Mombasa County by providing them with mentorship, motivation, and empowerment to allow them revive their dreams and aspirations. She has to date mentored 687 youth of Mombasa County. As a result, she has been awarded a number of accolades.

Despite her successes, she has also experienced challenges notably limited financial resources to sustain her human rights work which she has tried to address through proposals for assistance to sponsors and even organized fundraising campaigns. Their hard work bore fruits and they now have 5 partners and 502 members.

Salma’s vision is to create her own innovation hub where youth can come together to creatively tackle complex problems, nurture their talents, take courses to and skills, build on their ideas and start pitching their start-ups to investors, formulate new strategies that will favor youth empowerment and ensure a significant reduction in drug abuse, early marriages, gang groups, violent extremism, drop out cases and unambitious and demotivated youth.

“The world will not remember how much money you had, the world will remember how you changed and touched their lives,” Salma Abdulatif

 

MEN CAN DEFEND WOMEN RIGHTS TOO- Story of Charles Omwanro

“Violation of one’s right threatens personal safety and peace. Therefore, if we are unable to prevent human rights violation then we should ensure that justice prevails,” Charles Omwanro, HRD

Charles is a Human Rights Defender who champions for the rights of women and children with a focus on prevention and response to gender based violence. His human rights work started in 2003 when he became a volunteer with Gender and Development Centre as a project assistant addressing the escalating gender based violence within the flower farms. It is within the period that some farms founded gender committees and others went further to develop work based Gender policies.

Charles Omwanro (left) receives a nomination certificate for HRD of the year Award 2017 from NCHRD-K Board Member Ahmed Shire and Selection Panel Member Lorna Dias

n 2008 Charles and his colleagues spearheaded “Yes We can”, A campaign that recruited over 4,000 people to be agitators of ending all forms of violence against women (VAW) in Naivasha. In 2010 he and his colleagues founded Young Men Champions in Ending Gender based violence (YMCEG) a community based organization that has influenced a substantial number of young men to join in the fight to end all forms of violence on women and children, enabling victims/survivors to access the required services and access to justice. As a paralegal, he has worked on over 80 cases since 2014. Through his work, he has been identified by media houses to assist them in highlighting some of the violation stories. He was featured in “Dangerous flowers” a documentary by Mohamed Khamis that highlighted the plights of women in the cut flower industry.

In his work, the biggest challenge is having insufficient finances to address the needs of the survivors and the cost of operations, which he has tried to address through linkages with organisations that work within the same scope of work like FIDA- Kenya, Women Empowerment Link, CEDGG, PEACENET, Legal Resource Foundation, National Coalition on Human Rights Defenders and the local Human Rights Organizations who have supported Charles financially or technically.

Nominate someone for HRD Awards 2018 here:http://nchrdk.org/call-for-nominations-for-human-rights-defenders-awards-2018/

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