Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Allsopp’

Women Nobel Laureates ask to fight fundamentalism in all its guises

May 18, 2017

On 16 May 2017 Jennifer Allsopp reported for 50.50 from the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/nobel-womens-initiative-defending-the-defenders-24-26-april-2015/]

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirini Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful just and equal world. The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.

….

The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, explained Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside 28.7 billioneuros of funding for their accommodation and integration.

….Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with the UK NGO Student Action for Refugees which supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities. But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now turning their backs on refugees – are training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines, has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news”.

Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by BAMF (the Federal for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists, people are nevertheless now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.

After the event in the foyer the laureates message appears to have got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled and to fix the gaps in their own democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order. “You will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women.

Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher Meike Barth from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße which has around 900 students. They are also curious to learn about human rights struggles other parts of the world and how they can support them, in part because of the new refugee friends they have made at their school.

Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin wall: “She said that that physical wall and the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet’s also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”

Ahmet is also inspired by Jody William’s work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.

Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire to use academic studies to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. “People thing human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.

 

Source: Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany | openDemocracy

Human Rights Defenders must shift their framework, to earn the public’s support

April 20, 2015

Open Democracy carries regularly interesting pieces related to human rights defenders (e.g. https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras), but I draw your attention to a particular pertinent one on the ‘framing’ of the human rights debate. This blog has always taken a special interest in this aspect of human rights work [see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/media-framing-and-the-independence-of-the-judiciary-the-case-of-water-boarding/]. This post by Rachel Krys focuses on the United Kingdom but much is relevant to other European countries where similarly there are sustained efforts – with the media leading or at least being a conduit – to give ‘human rights’ either a bad name or at least portray it as something ‘foreign’, ‘European’ [!!] and only necessary for others. Read the rest of this entry »