Shamiso is a 22 year old law student from Zimbabwe, currently in her fifth year of studies at the Ezekiel Guti University. Towards the end of last year, she took part in the Summer School on Human Rights organised by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute together with five academic partner universities, which took place at Africa University in Mutare.
The purpose of the summer school was to enable students to gain a deeper understanding of how human rights are applied in practice, and to increase their opportunities to study human rights law. Shamiso perceives the experience as very fulfilling and believes that it helped sharpen her legal skills.
“It was fulfilling. We would learn, we would interact, we would socialize, so it was indeed a total package.”
She finds it especially fulfilling that there was not only an academic side to the summer school, but also a social side. On the academic side, the participants got to engage in discussions based on which they would have debates in smaller groups, where they would discuss human rights from different angles. On the social side, the summer school enabled participants to mingle with students from other countries and continents, which enabled them to expand their networks. Combining the two can be very beneficial according to Shamiso.
“We were encouraged to interact with each other and get to know other people. We also had someone from Stockholm University, if I’m not mistaken, and we had some people from Angola. So it was a mixture with people who appreciate human rights from every perspective across the globe. It was very fun and interesting, all thanks to Raoul Wallenberg Institute.”
Shamiso’s favourite part were the discussions, because she got to see perspectives on human rights that were not only narrowed down to Zimbabwe or Africa but touched other parts of the globe. This made her realise how broad human rights are and that their practical application can be very different compared to what is taught in class. It enabled her to get a full appreciation of what rights entail.
Another advantage of participating was that it boosted her confidence. There were facilitators who encouraged participants to take part in all activities and to speak out whenever they disagreed with a statement. Furthermore, it allowed the participants to improve their networking skills immensely.
“I wasn’t a person who was good at networking when I got into some of these circles, but they encouraged us to sit with and talk to people from different universities and countries, as you never know where your next opportunity will come from.”
Besides improving all these skills, Shamiso was able to deepen her knowledge on various topics that she was only vaguely familiar with. This included learning about how the rights are grouped, about their interdependence and about the rights of minority groups. The latter even inspired the topic of her thesis which she will be working on next year and which will explore the rights of a minority group in Zimbabwe.
“When I was doing my fourth year, I didn’t have an idea of what topic to choose, but after the summer school, I definitely had so many topics to choose from.”
She already feels like she is using much of the knowledge she gained at the summer school. Mostly, she is now able to recognize human rights violations and able to provide advice on what to do in a particular case, and what people are entitled to.
“Looking at the world right now, there are countries that have war, there are countries that have poverty, there are crises everywhere. Thanks to the summer school, you get a deeper appreciation of what exactly these people are going through and what they are entitled to get in such situations. I want to applaud your institution for setting up such platforms where people come and learn and then go out there and raise awareness to people.”
Aside from sitting in class and engaging in discussions, the students were given the opportunity to go on an excursion to the nearby Bvumba mountains.
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