Why do you need to be trained in human rights?
Åse Karen Westad Fjeld, The UN-students of Oslo (FNSF). If you are interested in human rights youth training, send us an email.
When did you first become interested in human rights?
Working at the Oslo Women’s Shelter and studying women’s law made me realize how all this is connected. Reading about the complaints the CEDAW committee has made about Norway every time we have been evaluated has been an eye opener, and made me interested in women’s rights both in the Norwegian and the global context.
How did you hear about the Human Rights Training for Youth?
I heard about the training from our national UN association FN-sambandet, through the UN-students of Oslo, where I held the position as the information officer. I am still very happy that I decided to apply, and grateful that I got accepted. I had no idea how useful the training would be for me. With the training as an addition to my sociology studies, I now feel I have a tool to work within the field of human rights.
What led you to apply?
Upon applying I had taken a human rights course, but longed for the practical aspect and the international perspective. The idea of learning about human rights in the UN buildings in Geneva sounded really appealing. The training appeared very educational and comprehensive, and like a once in a life time-opportunity.
What did you learn from the training? Would you recommend this training to anyone else?
I did get a comprehensive understanding of human rights and the UN system. It also turned out to be very inspiring meeting with students from all corners of the world. It contributed to networking, fruitful discussions and the interchange of ideas.
I would recommend it to everyone interested in justice and equality, with interests of working within international cooperation and organizations, but also to everyone who wants to work on the ground and maybe start a project or a NGO themselves. I would recommend it to all young people who would like to make a difference, whether on a local, national or global level.
You learned about the human rights system and the instruments that can be used in Geneva but you’ve also done a lot of work on the ground. How do you see the two connect to work together?
In Geneva I learned about how the NGOs and civil society, nationally, regionally and globally, all play an important part in promoting and protecting human rights. NGOs with ECOSOC status have access to UN buildings in Geneva, so they can exercise pressure and lobby in favor of issues of importance to them. They also have a role in the Human Rights Council, as observers. One example, is how Amnesty International has contributed with their views and reports.
To get a sense of the Human Rights Council’s work in practice, the students were divided into three groups: NGOs, countries in the UN Human Rights Council or the countries under examination. Then we simulated an UPR, a very fun and interesting exercise!
Furthermore NGOs are invited to write “shadow reports”, which can refine the image of the examined state. Through information, campaigning and training, NGOs can also affect the community, government and media. The Human Rights and the system of UPR-processes are useful tools to NGOs. Working on for example campaigns where you wish to change legislation, it is useful to be able to refer to international agreements that the government has actually signed and ratified. No country likes international criticism, and it can be necessary and useful to remind them of the international human rights. One example is how the women’s movement in Peru right now is asking the new president to sign a protocol for therapeutic abortion In their campaign the organizations are referring to the repeated critique from the CEDAW-committee on how the Peruvian government is violating women’s rights to life, health, information, non-discrimination and last but not least, the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, by lacking clear guidelines on the access to therapeutic abortion.
The awareness raising activities on human rights issues made me understand the importance of peoples awareness of their own rights. Or how else would they be able to claim them? This is urgent and crucial, not only in Peru, but in every country in the world, to avoid the violations of human rights globally.
What is it about the women’s training in Peru that intrigues you?
A lot of exciting things are happening in Peru right now. I have had the change to get to work together with the Peruvian women’s movement and it has been a really educational experience. With for instance the country’s high level of maternal mortality combined with the large amount of illegal abortions, you are constantly reminded of that the work on both educating women, but also public awareness raising, is vital for a large amount of women, and also their men and children.