Strengthening Individuals & Communities

Creating New Rituals to Replace Harmful Practices

Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), are complex problems that are often tied to deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs. As a result, combatting FGM requires a complex and multi-leveled process. In Guinea-Bissau, Plan International partnered with local NGOs and the European Commission to facilitate discussions and educational sessions about the dangers of FGM with various members of the community involved or impacted by FGM. These members include the women and girls at risk or victims of FGM, the local “cutter”, religious leaders, the village chief or mayor as well as medical professionals. This process of raising awareness has resulted in using public declarations to abandon the practice.

Using a Restaurant to Smash HIV Stigmas

In November 2017, June’s HIV+ Eatery opened for three nights to break the stigma surrounding people living with HIV in Toronto. Operating under the slogan “Break Bread, Smash Stigma”, all of the food served at June’s was prepared by HIV positive individuals-turned chefs. All of the seats at the pop-up restaurant sold out within two weeks, and the event garnered widespread worldwide media attention.

Establishing a culturally sensitive helpline to assist victims and inform advocacy

Muslim women face many of the same problems as non-Muslim women; however, cultural norms often prevent Muslim women and girls from reaching out for help. The Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) recognized the need for faith and culturally sensitive services for the Muslim community, and to Muslim women and girls in particular.

Establishing a new custom to protect girls and transform societal norms

Modifying societal beliefs and norms are most successful when the change comes from within the community. Such a transformation is now happening after the birth of every girl in the village of Piplantri in Rajasthan, India. Villagers plant one hundred eleven (111) trees to honor the birth of the girl. The new custom aims to counteract the prevalence of female feticide by encouraging parents and villagers to plant trees in honor of a female child. It requires that parents promise to not marry their female child before adulthood, creates a community-funded trust fund for the child, and provides the community with the necessary resources to develop. Villagers have planted over 286,000 trees which are now providing not only a new tradition but environmental sustainability. In addition, villagers have planted over 2.5 million aloe vera plants which protect the trees and provide a source of livelihood. As a result, the ratio of girls to boys in Piplantri village has increased and girls are being given an equivalent position to boys in the village. The Piplantri 111 Trees has now spread to surrounding villages, broadening the respect and protection for girls.

Reducing stigma and stereotypes by “reading” people, rather than books

Human rights violations can easily stem from a lack of interaction and accustom among diverse social groups. By simulating a library checkout of people instead of books, the human library helps foster respectful dialogue between distinctive individuals and their peers, intending to promote understanding on various lifestyles within any given community. Since the first event in 2000, the human library movement has grown immensely, now having taken place in an estimated 70 nations across every region of the world.

Using a victim accompaniment process to provide emotional support for testimony

When addressing human rights violations in a public reconciliation process, it’s important to make the process comfortable for victims who testify. One tactic is “accompaniment” of victims by volunteers trained in psychosocial support and the practical realities of the process. The goal is to give victims an empowering experience that helps their healing and does not contribute to re-traumatization.

To address gross human rights violations committed during apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by legislation in 1995. Their mandate was to document violations committed by state bodies or armed opposition, to promote national unity and reconcili­ation, and to offer policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings were held, focused on abuses suffered by women and children. These hearings were held around the country and were covered exten­sively by all media.

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