Winter School Training Zimbabwe: Putting Theory into Practice

James Tapiwanashe Trevor was one of the students receiving a scholarship allowing him to participate in the Master in Human Rights, Peace & Development at the Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe. Only 13 out of 250 applicants were granted a spot. – I am so happy that I did not give up, after having applied for a scholarship more than 80 times! I cherish my grit, he says. Trevor also had the opportunity to take part in the RWI winter school on human rights to which he was elected.

The first winter school training that Trevor had the chance to participate in, was an introductory course to human rights that, due to Covid-19, took place online. The follow up 2021 winter school, however, focused on specific rights, such as women’s rights and disability rights.

trevor The training was amazing, Trevor says, and very useful for me. Not only did we study international human rights frameworks but also investigated the ‘human aspects’ of human rights law. I particularly enjoyed the practical ingredients of the training and the real-life examples that we worked with. These were for example on land rights issues and how these disputes affect women in different ways. I can easily relate to these myself, on a personal level, since I have experience working with land rights.

Presenters in the training were representatives from the Zimbabwe Land Commission, Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Judicial Service Commission, academia, and CSO members such as disability rights organisations that shared their insights. Students participating were from a great number of different Zimbabwean universities, such as the University of Zimbabwe, Africa University, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Great Zimbabwe University and Midlands State University.

–Some of the key sessions that I really recall as particularly interesting, were concrete case studies on land rights conflicts, Trevor says. One of the presenters shared how minorities and how women are affected by these common disputes. Among other things, we learned about difficulties that the mixed-race community in Zimbabwe are facing, from a practical as well as a theoretical human rights perspective. Representatives from the Gender Commission shared how we best can address some of these human rights issues.

Trevor describes his experience from the training as interactive and engaging:

–I also felt that the setting represented a very safe environment where you could get your voice heard and share experiences with your peers.

An example of the group discussions that he took part in, was when working together on a case that describes the human rights situation in a country. The group’s task was to analyse the situation and to provide and as well as suggest potential and reasonable solutions. The suggestions were then presented to the rest of the group. The audience’s task was to give feedback and suggest other possible solutions.

–These discussions have been key for me, learning from the other students, but also to be able to share my personal experiences and understand how we can use the law and how it can be beneficial.

Trevor is currently working at a national independent commission (National Peace and Reconciliation Commission(NPRC)), focusing on natural resource-based conflicts and how land rights issues become women’s rights issues, in the Eastern Part of Zimbabwe.

–We look at national resource-based conflicts, he says. Conflicts may arise within small communities regarding gold mining, timber, land or other natural resources. I use a human rights-based approach when looking at and mitigating the issues surrounding the conflict. I really feel that RWI’s winter school has helped me see things differently and added to my perspectives. It is really a passion of mine to deal with these sorts of conflicts.

It was during his Masters that Trevor saw the opportunity to join the NPRC. He started working on gold mining issues.

–There may be very serious human rights issues within these areas, he says. I love dealing with these since I feel I can have an impact and make a difference. Issues can involve forced sexual favours, access to water, child rights violations, and abrupt or forced evictions.

These days, Trevor is himself a trainer within human rights, having been trained according to the train-the-trainer principle. He sees himself keeping addressing human rights issues in the future.

–Studying human rights has really opened doors for me; giving me new opportunities, new knowledge, and a useful network. I have learned about and encountered new cultures as our class was a very blended group. I have gotten the chance to interact with and learn from new groups that I have not interacted with previously; LGBTQIA+ for example. This has been fantastic.



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