In collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Pacific Regional Office, The University of the South Pacific’s Leadership, Governance and Human Rights (LGHR) unit convened a promotional outreach of the two new Human Rights Defenders courses; DG201 – Introduction to Role & Challenges of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and DG302 – Building Resilience Amongst HRDs.
DG201 will be offered in Semester I, 2022 and DG302 in Semester 2, 2022. The promotional outreach was organised at USP, Laucala Campus in Suva on 8 and 9 March 2022. The workshop was addressed by the OHCHR Regional Representative for the Pacific, Ms Heike Alefsen.
Ms Heike said, “We are faced with existential crises, including the crisis of climate change impact on the Pacific Islands on Pacific Islanders who have to face issues such as displacement within their own countries, migration, perhaps as a form of adaptation or mitigation. Women and human rights defenders are at the forefront of seeking policy solutions, and also at the forefront of mobilising their communities to deal with these very existential challenges”.
Coordinator for Diploma in Leadership, Governance & Human Rights (DLGHR), Dr Natasha Khan said she is not only trying to engage the participants for capacity building but also giving a taster version of what will be offered in the course.
“We always defer to the most senior persons in the workplace if there are instances of bullying and unfair advantage being taken at workplaces where people don’t speak up. We try to build that capacity where they can speak out in the right way and become aware of the legislations around so that they can get justice and remedy through their rights,” she said.
The courses would focus on developing and strengthening knowledge about methods of protection, legal mechanisms and organisational development of human rights defenders. It will also focus on the diverse situations of human rights defenders; threats encountered by them and their families and build the capacity of HRDs to act while mitigating risks.
One of the participants, Director Programmes for Hakwa Foundation, Jone Biunaivalu said the outreach has enabled him to learn how to respond to situations.
“I have learnt that rights come with responsibilities. I found a short yoga session to be one of the most important aspects of self-care and well-being. It was very effective and I will do that more often now because it gets very stressful at times and we all need effective calming and relaxing methods.”
A member and participant from the Fiji Disability Forum, Leslie Tikotikoca expressed, “As a person with a disability, we face this twice as more. Most persons with disabilities don’t come out in public, they stay home confined, depressed and stressed. That’s why I encourage my peers with disabilities and even abled people to discipline their emotions”.
When asked about his key takeaway from the two-day outreach, Leslie said, “A reignited passion to promote equality and inclusion of all different types of people and to stand up for what is right when we see something is wrong”.