Teaching human rights to transcend frontiers and cultural differences

human rights southeast asiaThe Raoul Wallenberg Institute is holding a last meeting in Bangkok to gather participants from courses it held from 2011 to 2014 on the equal status and human rights of women in Southeast Asia.

The Institute organised the four annual courses, “Equal Status and Human Rights of Women in Southeast Asia,” for staff of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and academic institutions in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan.
miriamestradaProfessor Miriam Estrada-Castillo, International expert on human rights, is Visiting Professor at RWI and was the lead instructor for the course.

Why is it important to have a course like this?

The Blended Learning Course – organised around the analysis of human rights of women in South East Asia- offers unique advantages for institutions like RWI wanting to reach an important number of participants at the regional level.

In addition to the facilities given by the on-line education technology itself — in terms of reasonably flexible schedules, time-management, possibility to study at own pace, streamline of economic resources, in times when these are rather scarce — the course presents a platform to discuss and share experiences, socio-economic realities, problems and solutions faced and solved by participants within the context where they have been working on human rights.

In this way, we have contributed to educate citizens of and for the world, men and women who can devise international solutions to today’s challenges, transcending frontiers and cultural differences.

As an added value, the course enabled participants to experience a sense of democratic community which is joyfully expressed in the face-to-face phase and in the subsequent network of human rights defenders that the course promotes and encourages.

Why did the Institute choose to focus on working with academic institutions and NHRI’s?

We are convinced that when training on human rights it is a self-evident fact that theory and practice must be embraced as a whole and that is useless to teach human rights principles from the empty perspective of pure scholastic approaches out of the reality where our trainees are immersed.

In addition, NHRI and Academics complement each other’s strengths and in fact the combination of reciprocal capacities, activities, and mandate could be at the heart of campaigns for human rights advocacy, research, dissemination, and monitoring.

Academics could build awareness and support for the mandate of NHRI’s among the public and authorities of the government. They also could share advocacy activities particularly in contexts where there is a lack of understanding on the role of the NHRI or lack of political will among the decision makers to recognise its independence and effectiveness.

Academia and NHRI’s must be conscious of the role that both could play in the development of a society of democracy and peace so that they will strengthen the capacity of one another, supporting and fulfilling common obligations and responsibilities. The Blended Learning Course works diligently underlining these capacities and the advantages of common cooperation.

What would you say the main results of the course are?

We are always aware of the difficulties that a “mentality modification” or an “idiosyncratic transformation” regarding attitudes and beliefs towards women’s roles, rights and position within a society entail. Yet, this course is the living proof that human rights training can and must go beyond the mere transmission of knowledge. This learning process is, by itself, an important outcome that should be welcomed as it illuminates future actions and contributes to lead the path for taking effective and meaningful actions for implementing participants’ strategic goals through the process of envisioning a future in the advancement of the human rights ideal.

I most sincerely hope that the experience would be replicated in the near future.

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