With financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)/the embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute is implementing an extensive human rights capacity development programme for government institutions, independent commissions, civil society organisations, independent research centres, academia, and traditional leadership in Zimbabwe.
The aim of the programme is to contribute to enhanced enjoyment of constitutional rights in Zimbabwe. This involves support to initiatives contributing to legislation, policies, practices and decision-making being increasingly informed by international human rights standards and principles.
An important element of the Programme is the implementation of Professional Training Programmes (PTP) on human rights, bringing together participants from different sectors in society to discuss and share experiences particularly on reform relevant issues and how to apply human rights standards in practice. Two participants from the series of PTPs on human rights share their experiences below.
Meet: Okay Machisa
Okay Machisa is currently the executive director at the Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Implementation (IPPAI) in Harare. Previously he was active at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) during which time he also participated in several of RWI’s PTPs. Machisa describes how the training programmes organised by RWI in cooperation with the Centre for Applied Legal Research in Harare benefited ZimRights.
“The partnership necessitated hugely a working relationship and partnership with government departments and Independent Commissions… The partnerships and relationships have also paved way for easy access into the communities especially when ZimRights is carrying out its Community Human Rights Programs.”
Machisa himself participated in the 2016 PTP on Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Constitution for his personal development, and shares what the learnings in the programme groups brought him.
“I was lucky to be part of the first group which consisted of the Independent Commissioners, Ministry of Justice, and different Universities especially those from Faculty of Law, Civil Society, and Law Society of Zimbabwe. The program allowed both the civil society and the government to share ideas but most importantly to demystify some of the untrue narratives where civil society was quoted as opposition appendage.”
As part of the PTP Machisa participated in a study tour to Sweden, which he thought was a very good and educational experience. Machisa also feels that he managed to create a new and useful relationship with officers within the mentioned institutions.
“… for me it [human rights work] is a calling not a profession. I have had a lot of chances of assisting a number of citizens whose rights have been abused and I feel it is too early for me to quit defending human rights. The training opened up a lot of networks in government and outside government.”
Meet: Kwanele Muriel Jirira
Kwanele Jirira retired as a commissioner for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in May of 2020, but in her role as Commissioner she attended the PTP on the Equal Status and Human Rights of Women in 2018 as well as RWI training programmes developed specifically for ZHRC.
The study tour to Sweden, which Jirira also took part in during the PTP, was an eye-opener, she describes. There were many opportunities to share learning experiences on human rights practices and to build future collaborations on human rights-related topics within the Zimbabwe context. In general, Jirira says that the programmes resulted in the creation of various networks that helped improve the human rights environment in Zimbabwe.
“I have been able to engage with various human rights actors more profoundly including persons with disability. Prior to the training I never seriously engaged with persons with disability to actually appreciate the various challenges they face when trying to access various services. But with the exposure from RWI exchange visit and further training from the EU sponsored training on sexual and reproductive health rights by UNDP and UNFPA, I am now more enlightened and greatly appreciate the “reasonable accommodation” concept in relation to accessing various services from duty bearers and the private sector.”
Currently Jirira continues to work on human rights issues as an independent consultant. Her areas of interest are women’s rights, gender and politics, and gender and peace. Jirira describes that she is intrinsically motivated to work on human rights issues.
“Sheer Passion and dedication especially my interest in justice, equality and a society that respects, promotes and protects human and gender rights of/for all citizens.”