On Friday 20 July 2018, students from the 14th Cohort of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) (Civic Leadership Track) visited the Centre for Human Rights to learn more about the Centre’s work.
The afternoon kicked off with a presentation from the Disability Rights Unit. The students were introduced to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and given some information on how specific rights within the Convention may be implemented in practice, using the right to access to justice which is found in article 13 of the Convention as an example. Students learnt about the different types of disabilities and the barriers which people with each type of disability typically face in accessing justice. Solutions to these barriers were also explored in the form of accommodations which may be made to enable persons with disabilities to participate effectively in the criminal justice system and access justice on an equal basis with others.
The next presentation was made by the SOGIE Unit which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities including lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex, and asexual persons. An exercise on discrimination revealed that almost all the students had at one point in their lives been discriminated against on various grounds including sex, age, class, race, colour, disability etc. Students learnt that because law, culture and religion do not allow non-heterosexism, there are people who are discriminated against on this ground in various settings such as the workplace, church, school etc. This presentation ended on a positive note with students being informed about the various ways in which sexual minority rights can be promoted including legal reform, sensitization and awareness-raising.
The last presentation was made by the Women’s Rights Unit. A powerful short film by Soul City was screened, titled “Community Action on Violence against Women”. The film provided a springboard for a discussion centred on fighting violence against women. The main issues which were raised during the discussion include the fact that gender-based violence has far-reaching effects on children in the home. There is therefore, a need for a concerted effort to put an end to gender based violence. One of the main problems has been that gender-based violence has been relegated to the private realm when in fact communities have a role to play in ending gender-based violence. Awareness-raising and education were identified as key ways of stopping gender-based violence, particularly in light of the fact that negative socialization can result in gender based violence. The foundational message that nothing justifies violence was reiterated throughout the discussion.
At the close of the session, students were asked to share what they thought about the session and some of them said the following:
- “This was riveting and I love your vehemence.”
- “We need to unlearn and re-learn certain things.”
- “I am fired up and inspired. It was a very productive session.”
- “I was enlightened mostly with the disability rights. I didn’t know that I could contribute to their issue.”
- “I have a fuel and a drive to do something in the community with regards to women.”