Paving Pathways for Justice & Accountability: New Tools for Diaspora Communities

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This post originally appeared on The Advocates Post.

Human rights advocacy takes many forms, and human rights activists can be found in every corner of the world.  Tremendous advancements in technology and communication have allowed activists to form strong international networks and to share emerging information about human rights abuses almost as soon as they happen.  These advancements have fundamentally changed the way human rights organizations work, including how they engage in human rights advocacy with broader communities beyond a country’s borders.

Yet the unique role diaspora communities can play in improving human rights around the world has largely been overlooked in the human rights field. It’s time for that to change.  

Diaspora: The Migration Policy Institute defines the term “diaspora” as “emigrants and their descendants who live outside the country of their birth or ancestry . . . yet still maintain . . . ties to their countries of origin.”

Members of diaspora communities play an increasingly important global role and can be a bridge between individuals, governments, and international legal and political mechanisms.  Diaspora communities are a critical link in changing social institutions and structures to hold governments accountable.   Many migrants – refugees and asylum seekers in particular – leave their homes because of human rights abuses.  Many were political and human rights activists in their home countries and they bring their experiences with them.  In some countries with repressive governments, security concerns mean that diasporans must take the lead in speaking out.  From their new home base, they can bring change in their countries of origin.

Members of diaspora communities agree.  Chanravy Proeung, a member of the Cambodian diaspora and Co-Director of the Providence Youth Student Movement, said:

“We have the privilege to see those countries from a different perspective. We need to have the people who are the most marginalized and affected by issues at the forefront of creating change not only here in the United States, but having influence in their countries of origin, too.”

For more than 30 years, The Advocates for Human Rights has witnessed the powerful role that diaspora civil society organizations play in documenting human rights abuses, influencing policy, and advocating on behalf of victims of human rights violations in their countries of origin.

As a legal service provider, The Advocates is often the first connection that asylum seekers have to their new community in the United States.  Because of this special relationship, diasporans from dozens of countries have requested assistance from The Advocates in documenting human rights violations “back home.”  With diaspora communities, The Advocates has conducted groundbreaking work, such as the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Diaspora Project, ensuring that public hearing testimony and the statements of 1,200 Liberians living outside of Liberia were included in the formal history of the conflict.

The report,  Human Rights in Ethiopia: Through the Eyes of the Oromo Diasporaproved the significance of involving individuals who have left a country in work to hold governments accountable and affect human rights in their home countries.  The Advocates has also collaborated with the Indian American Muslim Council on advocacy on issues concerning religious minorities at the both the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, demonstrating that diaspora voices can have an impact on human rights in India.

The Advocates recently completed a two-year project to identify needs and create tools to help tap the underexplored resources of diaspora involvement in human rights.  The result is a groundbreaking resource called Paving Pathways for Justice & Accountability: Human Rights Tools for Diaspora Communities.

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This manual, available for download at no cost, provides a full menu strategies and resources designed to empower diaspora communities to be more effective advocates for human rights in their countries of origin.

With practical tools and step-by-step guidance shaped by input from multiple diaspora communities, Paving Pathways can be used to help individuals and organizations to:

  • monitor and document human rights abuses;
  • advocate for change in their country of origin and country of residence, as well as at international and regional human rights mechanisms;
  • address impunity and hold governments accountable using national and international law; and
  • build their capacity to improve human rights conditions.

While the tools and resources presented in this manual were specifically created for use by diaspora communities, this manual can also benefit and be used by human rights defenders and civil society organizations throughout the world.

The international community needs to do more to recognize the unique contributions that diaspora communities can make to building respect for human rights around the world.  Rather than treating diasporans solely as economic sources of remittances,  investment, and philanthropy, countries of origin and countries of residence should  facilitate engagement in long-term social change.  With this new resource, The Advocates is taking an important step in supporting diaspora communities in their efforts to improve human rights around the world.

Download your free copy at: TheAdvocatesForHumanRights.org/pathways  

Individual chapters can also be downloaded for free.

Don’t know where to start?Quick Reference Guide cropped

Use our Quick Reference Guide!

 

[1] International Organization for Migration and Migration Policy Institute, Developing a Roadmap for Engaging Diasporas in Development (Washington DC and Geneva: IOM and MPI, 2012), 15. Also available online at http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/thediasporahandbook.pdf.

By:  Jennifer Prestholdt, Deputy Director and Director of  the International Justice Program at The Advocates for Human Rights

 

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Letter from Liberia

Great post by my colleague Amy Bergquist on the pro bono needs assessment work we are doing this winter through our Africa Advocacy Project in four countries: Liberia, Morocco, Cameroon and Tanzania. Amy writes about the first country our team visited – Liberia.

The Advocates Post

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By Amy Bergquist

Life can be a heavy load in post-conflict Liberia, a country torn apart by a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. What happened to a little girl, Olivia, evidences the toll of human rights abuses in that country, as reported to The Advocates’ “Team Liberia” while we were in Liberia in January conducting needs assessments with that country’s human rights organizations.

Olivia, at age 7, was reportedly raped by her 20-year-old cousin in 2005. The rape wasn’t reported to authorities until three years later when the girl’s uncle discovered his niece gravely ill and family members told him about the crime. The uncle took Olivia to Monrovia for medical care. The cousin was arrested.

A heavy price was paid for the uncle breaking the silence: The family shunned Olivia and her mother. The ostracism they suffered compelled Olivia’s mother to drop all charges, and the…

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10 Things To Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day!

This is a post that I wrote for World Moms Blog.  Originally published here.

Make your own human rights tapestry!

Human Rights Day is December 10! The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.  Here are some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.

1.  Learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Check out the UDHR plain language version  or the Amnesty International UK book We Are All Born Free (15 of the illustrated pages of the book can be found on The Guardian’s website if you want to look at them online or print them out). You can also watch  a short video together and talk about it with your kids. My kids loved this animated video version of the UDHR even back when they couldn’t understand what the words meant. For a more historical view, check out The Story of Human Rights.

2.  Exercise your right to freedom of expression! Draw pictures together of the rights and freedoms that are important to you. You can make your own family “Human Rights Tapestry” by drawing on index cards and using a hole punch to make holes in each corner.  Use yarn to tie together the cards to make a tapestry. (See the picture above of the Human Rights Tapestry conceived of by Chanida Phaengdara Potter and created by visitors to The Advocates for Human Rights‘ booth at the Minnesota State Fair.) You can alsomake posters or collages together.  Help your kids write a poem or story about human rights.  Older kids can even make a video!

3.  Listen to some human rights music with your kids. Here are a few suggestions, but you might also want to check out the folk music songbook Rise Up Singing.  The book contains the chords and lyrics for more than the 1200 songs on a wide variety of social justice issues.

  • The Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog  Someday we’ll find it!
  • If I Had a Hammer – Pete Seeger   Really, anything by Pete Seeger.  Pete is my own personal antidote to Barney.
  • Free to Be You and Me   – Marlo Thomas & Friends     In my opinion, one of the best things about being a kid in the 70s.
  • The Preamble – Schoolhouse Rock      Did you know that the U.S. Constitution is one of the first documents to establish universal principles of human rights?
  • Star Wars Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner – John Williams   People say Star Wars was a Western set in space, but I see it as a movie about the fight for human rights against the Empire.

4.  Same and Different.  I started doing this activity in my childrens’ classrooms and really learned a lot from the kids about tolerance and respect.  Show your kids a photo and have them point out what they see in the picture that is the same in their lives and what is different.  Here’s an example but more can be found on my blog post Same and Different:

photo by Dulce Foster

The kids’ responses:  ”I like that bracelet.”  ”I sometimes wear my hair in braids, too.” “They have dark skin and I have white skin.”  ”We have different trees here, like conifers.”  ”We have snow here right now.”  ”Is that corn growing behind them?  Because I LOVE to eat corn, too.”  ”Is that a house? It’s not like my house.”  ”You couldn’t live in that house in Minnesota.  You would get too cold.”

5.  Let your kids use their screen time to learn about human rights!  Play games and quizzes on the UN cyberschoolbus.  Check out these free, downloadable video games:

  • Against All Odds  Experience life as a refugee, for ages 7+.
  • Stop Disasters!  Learn how to respond to different humanitarian disasters.
  • Food Force   Gamers ages 8-16 undertake 6 virtual missions to stop world hunger. Download the game in English, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Korean, etc. (I’ll be testing newly launched Food Force 2  with my 12 year old gamer son. Something tells me he’s going to kick my butt at saving the world!)

Photo from Food Force 2

6.  Talk to someone you know who is from another country.  Where are they from?  What was their life like there?  What language did they speak?  Did they go to school? What do they miss?  What do they like about their new country?

7.  Make a Helping Hands Wreath to symbolize the responsibility we all have to help each other.  Trace your hands on different color construction paper.  Cut out the hand shapes and glue or staple them on a paper plate to make a wreath.

8.  Act out a skit with puppets.  You can use any puppets or even make your own paper bag or sock puppets.  This skit is from RAISING CHILDREN WITH ROOTS, RIGHTS, & RESPONSIBILITIES , but you can also write your own skit, using a problem that your children have had to deal with themselves.

  • Example skit: Puppet 1: Hi everybody, my name is Jan.Puppet 2: Hi, everybody! I’m Sam, and I’m building a bridge. (Puppet is working with blocks.) Jan: Hey, Sam, I need those blocks for the airport I’m building. (Jan takes some blocks.) Sam: Hey! Don’t do that! You’re taking away my right to play!  (Puppets tussle over a block.)
  • Discussion:  What do you think Jan could have done differently? Has anyone ever interfered with your play?  How did that make you feel?
  • “Can you do a different ending to the story?” Choose children to act out the play again with the puppets, but coach them in some respectful ways to play together to share, take turns, or use other solutions they think of themselves.
  • “I know you can act very respectfully and responsibly toward each other. In fact, I’ve seen ________________________ (give examples of a time when acted responsibly).

9.  Read a book about human rights.   There are so many, but for young children, I like  Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein,  Giving Hand, For Every Child, A Better World by Kermit the Frog. (Yes, I have a thing for Kermit.)

Photo from Wiki Muppets

Older kids may enjoy books more like The Hunger Games and Diary of Anne Frank.  For more ideas for books for teens and tweens, see the Discover Human Rights Institute resources, especially the Peace and Justice booklist and the  Equality and Tolerance booklist.

10.  Take action!  Teach your kids that they really can make a difference in the world.  Collect food and bring it to a local foodshelf.  Write a letter or sign a petition on behalf of a prisoner of conscience. Volunteer to help serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  Raise money from friends or neighbors for UNICEF or another organization working on human rights. (Remember to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF next Halloween.)  Check out additional service learning ideas for kids in grades K-12 at 160 Ways To Help The World

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

 MY 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST 10 MORE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY!

MY 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS

MY 2014 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES FOR YOU & YOUR KIDS

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

Raising Boys Not To Be Total Jerks

At some level, I’ve known since before my oldest son was born that this moment would come.  But when it did, it took me utterly and completely off guard.  I was driving a car full of boys home from a soccer tournament last week when my 9-year-old son piped up from the back,

“Hey mom! I’ve got a funny joke.  I’ll ask you a question and you say, ‘Ketchup and rubber buns'”.  “I’ve heard this one,” chuckled my 12-year-old son.  Snickers all around from the soccer players.  

Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know what was coming next.

“What did you have for breakfast?”  “Oatmeal and ketchup and rubber buns.”

“No! Mom!  Just say ketchup and rubber buns.”

“What did  you have for breakfast?” “Ketchup and rubber buns.”

“What did you have for lunch?”  “What did you have for dinner?”  Etc. etc.  And then we get to the punchline:

“What do you do when you see a hot chick? You catch up and rub her buns!”     Peals of laughter from the boys.

To my very great credit, I did not run the station wagon off the road and into the ditch.  I kept driving – silent, hands gripping the wheel, looking straight ahead.  It was a perfect autumn day.  The sky was brilliant blue and the afternoon sun was catching the full color of the orange and yellow leaves on the trees along the highway.   It was a beautiful, perfect day but inside I was angry. I was mortified. I was disappointed.  I was desperately struggling to think of what I should say.

Every once in a while, though, it is helpful to have gone to law school.  “I don’t think that joke is funny.  You know, if you actually ran after a woman and touched her in an offensive way like that, it would be called “assault and battery”. It is a crime.  You could be arrested.”

“You could be arrested for THAT?”  “Yes.  Plus, the woman could also sue you.”

Silence descends.

“Also, I’ve actually had that happen to me. How do you think it feels to have a stranger grab your butt?”

“WHAT? That actually happened to YOU?”

“Sure. More than once. Usually at parties.”

“That’s kind of  making me feel sick,” said the 12-year-old.

More silence.

From the 9-year-old:  “I remember you saying that you didn’t like running past construction sites because the construction workers whistled and yelled things at you.”

I didn’t remember telling them that, but it’s true.  When I was a teenager, I used to go way off my normal running routes just to avoid running past a construction site.  Good, they were listening.

“So what are you going to say the next time you hear someone tell a joke like that?”        “Stop, Mom! We get it, ok?”

Teachable moment: ended.  I decided just to leave it there  – for now.  These are intelligent boys, good kids who love and respect their mom and their sister, their grandmothers, their female friends and teachers.   But they, like other young Americans, are deeply impacted by the culture that they live in. Children are exposed to an estimated 16,000 images every day.  They are powerfully influenced by their peers (I know they didn’t hear THAT joke at home).   How can that not impact the way that they view girls and women?  And isn’t it only going to get worse as they move through middle and high school?

The Ketchup Joke was a call to action for me.  I need to do more to raise these boys to recognize the problem and, hopefully one day, to speak up when they hear someone tell a sexist joke.    Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there – research, organizations, websites.   The Advocates for Human Rights has developed a Challenge the Media workshop and resource list.   And I know that other parents have successfully managed to raise their sons not to be total jerks, but to be men who respect and treat women as equals.

I’ll report back periodically on what I have found.  In the meantime, I would welcome hearing about what others have learned.    But first, I’ve got a date with my sons.  We are going to see Miss Representation.

We've still got a long way to go, but we've taken the first step.