“Without empowerment of women and girls throughout the world, we will not see economic development, growth in democracy, and innovative solutions to our world’s problems,” said Professor Bill Simmons, who teaches human rights and gender related courses at the University of Arizona.
He recently traveled to the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, where RWI and Inner Mongolia University hosted a workshop on curriculum development on human rights and gender.
In China, less than a handful of universities teach gender as part of their human rights curricula, although many teachers are able to include some gender perspectives in their classes. Twenty human rights teachers from universities and justice sector training institutions across China recently joined the Institute for the workshop in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, to explore curriculum development and teaching methodologies.
Professor Liu Minghui, who teaches gender and human rights at China’s Women’s University, says gender is an important aspect of the human rights course. “There are still so many gender stereotypes in China, and it is important to make students aware of this,” she said. “Many laws contain gender bias, so I ask my students to go through laws from a gender perspective, as an awareness raising exercise.”
Both professors say it is important to create a link between the classroom and the wider community when teaching this topic, as it is not just about women’ rights but rather about wider diversity and equality issues.
Professor Liu says her students sometimes find it hard to understand LGBTIQ issues because they are very new to them and it is not widely discussed in China. “But by inviting people who are for example transgender to come and talk to the students, this has a profound effect on their attitudes about gender and human rights,” she said.
Professor Simmons emphasized the need to move from theory to practice, and also break down the notion of who is an “expert” in this field. He uses innovative teaching techniques, such as videoconferencing with human rights stakeholders from across the globe as part of the classes, and teaming students up with legal professionals to submit background reports on domestic violence cases.