468. BOTH CAPACITY BUILDING AND CAPACITY ENHANCEMENT REFER TO LOCKING-IN THE ABILITY TO PERFORM MORE EFFECTIVELY: THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS LEARNING.

Human rights: Food for a non-conformist thought

Human Rights Reader 468

From the time we are born, they train us to see no more that tidbits of reality. A culture of disengagement prohibits us from completing the puzzle. (Eduardo Galeano, Apuntes para Fin de Siglo)

1. Education, for most, means attempting to make us blend-in with the prevailing values. But for Jean Piaget it meant making creators, innovators and non-conformists –a principle we apply human rights learning (HRL).

2. Pedagogy is about how teachers create learning opportunities. The focus is on teaching, not as filling empty vessels, but as creating new opportunities, environments and sharing experiences through which active learning takes place.

What Human Rights Learning is

Human rights learning is about recruiting the heart and training the brain. (America Bracho)

3. The HRL approach to learning:

• Can and often does start prompted by, for instance, an existing struggle: for health, for education, for water…;
• teaches learning in partnership and emphasizes that new knowledge is for practice and thus has a purpose (“new ideas must be used”);
• sees activism as an ethical commitment and focuses on new ways of being and of acting (as well as focusing on new facts and adopting new theories);
• has participants reflect, enquire and research on their own;
• fosters a new leadership with the needed new judgment capabilities that imbues them with confidence, with integrity, with trust and with the courage to take risks;
• teaches patient listening (“listen to learn”);
• steers the learning towards the growth of skills and the habit of life-long learning;
• focuses on facilitators and faculty to equally learn;
• is geared to set up a community of activists that stay with the struggle for human rights (HR). (People’s Health Movement; read more at http://www.iphu.org)

4. Consider four principles to be applied:

• Think capacity building in relationship to pathways of activism.
• Both informal and formal learning opportunities are important.
• Curricula are to be linked to practice opportunities.
• Avoid expert domination.

5. And four principles of knowledge acquisition and dissemination

• New information flows must be empowering and include the use of scientific, technical and legal knowledge.
• Indigenous knowledge provides important new ways of understanding the world.
• Learn from older activists’ practice.
• Knowledge sharing is a core strategy of HRL. (People’s Health Movement)

6. Human rights learning is, therefore, about training participants to keep on-and-on lifting the fallen and creating grassroots organizations since the job never stops as populations grow –and ignorance about people’s rights prevails. Producing ad-hoc learning materials is indeed necessary. But activism cannot stop there. Participants are to be made proud of the HR movement and their achievements and this requires them to start significant actions regardless of what and how important their other responsibilities are. They have to learn how not to say: “Tomorrow”. Because tomorrow quickly becomes yesterday and ignoring HR depletes the masses of hope and creativity. Yes, we need to fill-in the details for accomplishing this vision and mission; yes, we will make mistakes, yes we will learn from one another. But we cannot make HR an added side issue. It is a central one to address including the big task of overcoming bureaucracy inertia and resistance. (Shula Koenig)

What it is not

7. Human rights learning is not about perpetuating the practice of holding endless conversations in a language that is only understood by us the ‘iniciati’.

8. On the contrary, we have to democratize the politics of HR in the widest sense possible, i.e., promoting public political debate, fostering coalitions, working with political parties, trade unions and social movements starting from our neighborhoods on. The aim of HRL is to elevate the level of our discussions using clear, accessible language that invites everybody to dialogue and join-in. (Gonzalo Cuadra)

9. The meaning may remain hidden to HRL participants for some time, but they will always know they are getting closer to their true mission when what they are doing is touched with the energy of honesty and of enthusiasm. (Paulo Coelho, The Zahir)

Bottom line

10. Trying to advance a progressive HR agenda cannot idly wait for some future, undefined electoral turn to push ahead. The urgent work is to build a powerful multi-centric coalition –including unions, racial justice groups and many other grassroots activist organizations. At the same time, political actors and parties need to be prodded and supported.* This entails embarking in a monumental, global HRL effort. If this development sounds unlikely or too difficult, I would counter that another dynamic will, slowly but surely, creep-in in coming years, namely the continued rise of inequalities to untenable levels. (Adam Gaffney, Howard Waitzkin)
*: This will mean transforming political parties so they become forces that can achieve fundamental changes in our capitalist society.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Your comments are welcome at schuftan@gmail.com
www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-You are never too old to learn something stupid.

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