Strengthening Individuals & Communities

Organizing mock tribunals to raise awareness of human rights abuses and influence public policy

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, along with the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, organized the first National Tribunal on Violence against Women. Held in March 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria’s capi­tal, the tribunal was unofficial and not legally binding, but the testimony was real. Thirty-three women testified, sharing their experiences in order to help the public learn about the abuses suffered by women in their homes, in their communities and at the hands of the government, including sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and female genital mutilation.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

Offering loans with favorable terms to small-busi­ness owners with the condition that they not use child labor

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) administers the Micro Enterprise Lending and Assis­tance (MELA) program, which offers loans with favorable terms to small businesses that would not normally be able to secure funds, on the condition that they agree not to use child labor.

Mapping personal histories and mobilizing memory to reclaim a place in history and recover lost land

The District Six Museum in South Africa spearheaded a land claim in which people ultimately recovered both the property and dignity they had lost under apartheid. It continues to be a space where people can collect, dissemi­nate and exchange memories of the neighborhood. It is also actively involved in promoting civic dialogue about humane cities in South Africa.

Maintaining a physical presence at the site of potential abuse to monitor and prevent human rights violations

Machsom Watch monitors several Israeli checkpoints every morning and afternoon during the periods of highest traffic to protest the checkpoints, and to protect the rights of individual Palestinians who must pass through them. All of the volunteers for Machsom Watch (machsom means checkpoint in Hebrew) are Israeli women. The organization began in January 2001 with three women and has since grown to 300 volunteers.

Involving the community in determining offenders’ sentences and helping to rehabilitate them

Peacemaking circles use traditional circle ritual and structure to create a respectful space in which all interested community members — victim, victim supporters, offender, offender supporters, judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, police and court workers — can speak openly in a shared attempt to understand a crime, to identify what is needed to heal all affected parties and to prevent future occurrences.

Involving religious leaders in modeling behavior toward stigmatized populations

The Sangha Metta project trains Buddhist monks, nuns and novices to provide practical and spiritual assistance to people with HIV/AIDS and to fight the myths, misconceptions and stigma surrounding the disease. The program now exists in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Bhutan, Vietnam, China and Mongolia and receives aid from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), AusAID, the Open Society Institute and the Burma Project.
 

Independently collecting air-quality data on the community level in order to pressure for change

Many communities across the United States have begun or joined “bucket brigades” programs that teach people living near industrial polluters to build and use simple air monitoring devices, or “buckets,” which have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the absence of strong environmental laws, standards or enforcement bodies, buckets give communities the means to independently monitor the air quality of their neighborhoods and provide them with evidence to pressure for change.

Establishing a formal truth commission to investigate and acknowledge gross human rights violations

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by national legislation in 1995, after a period of public debate. Its mandate was to collect information about gross human rights violations committed by state bodies or the armed opposition during apartheid and its goal was to promote national unity and reconcili­ation. The Commission was expected to offer suggestions for policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings focused on abuses suffered by women and children and others were held on the role of faith communities, the medical establishment, the legal sector, the business com­munity and other institutions that had passively or actively contributed to rights violations.

For more information on the "victim accompaniment" tactic within the context of the South African TRC, read our in-depth case study.

Encouraging local governments, organizations and individuals to oppose, through the use of education and resources, federal legislation that endangers human rights

In the United States, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) creates tools and resources to help local advocates of the Bill of Rights educate members of local governments and communities about how federal anti­terrorism legislation and policies violate their rights. Many of the local groups work with their city, town or county governments to formally register opposition to violations of civil liberties, passing resolutions or ordinances up­holding the Bill of Rights.

Empowering NGOs to use video in human rights advocacy

WITNESS empowers human rights organizations around the world to incorporate video as an advocacy tool in their work. Rooted in the power of personal testimonies and in the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words, the videos of WITNESS and its partners have been used as evidence in legal proceedings; to corroborate allegations of human rights violations; to complement written reports to international and regional organizations that provide a counterweight to official versions of a country’s human rights performance; to stimulate grassroots education and mobilization; to provide information for news broadcasts; to promote human rights via the internet; and to produce documentaries for broadcast on television worldwide.

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