Teaching human rights to Cambodian court clerks

What Do Paper Airplanes and Human Rights Have in Common?

I have to learn Khmer. Today, I did not understand the instructions at the training course for court clerks and missed a golden opportunity to impress the participants.

When I came home from work yesterday, my 5-year-old son was exited and had to show me something he had learned in school – a new cool type of folded paper planes. According to him – “the quickest and coolest and awesomest paper planes ever. Quicker than 1000.” I spent one hour doing paper planes and was very pleased with my final product.

I could not have imagined that these skills would have been useful at work today. If I only had been able to understand the instructions in Khmer.

UN Women covered a class this afternoon as part of our training for the court clerks. The first thing the participants were asked to do was to fold paper planes! I realised this too late and had no chance to join. The participants would have been so impressed with my skills.

Folding paper planes was actually a very good teaching method/ice breaker. The participants made their paper planes and on the wings wrote their understanding of the words “equality” and “discrimination”.

Human rights in CambodiaAt a given signal, the paper planes were thrown in the room and picked up randomly by the participants. This was the beginning of a very interesting discussion about discrimination among participants which later lead to a very good session about human rights of women and gender equality which was led by Sinet Seap from UN Women.

Gender is an important aspect of our work. I can honestly say that we actively consider gender in all our activities (design, planning, implementation etc). It can be everything from organising a preparatory training on gender sensitive teaching methods for the teachers we will use in a course to always making sure men and women are represented in scholarship selection committees.  It can also be activities specifically designed to focus on women, for example initiative to provide scholarships to female students from disadvantage backgrounds to study law and human rights.

Women are heavily underrepresented among lawyers in Cambodia. At the same time we know for example that female victims of gender-based violence or women going through a divorce in most cases prefer to be represented by a female lawyer.

However, more importantly, it is never healthy to have heavy gender imbalances in any sector, in any country. And the justice sector is no exception.  It is therefore important to promote the role of women in Cambodia’s legal profession as a mean of correcting the current gender imbalance.

I left the court clerk training course happy because of the excellent presentation by Ms. Sinet Seap and the engaged discussions among the participants.

Back at the office I had to deal with some paper work related to a library donation that is now stuck in the customs. After that, I had a meeting with Seila to coordinate our Human Rights Textbook Initiative, approved a number of invoices, had a phone meeting with an insurance company and had a short meeting about a possible initiative to bring law students from Battambang to visit the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) as part of their human rights course

When I came home my 5-year-old son was exited and had to show me something he had learned in school. He told me: “If you put water in a bowl and add pepper and then put soap on your finger and then dip your finger in the water – the pepper will float backwards.”

I wonder if this is a skill that can be useful at work tomorrow?

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