Human Rights Specialist Erin Gough writes about her experiences at the APF Human Rights Education Workshop that was held in Bangkok in September.
Back in September, Digital Communications Advisor Shawn and I were lucky enough to attend a week-long workshop in Bangkok, Thailand. Run by the Asia Pacific Forum, a coalition of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from across the Asia Pacific, the workshop focused on Human Rights Education and marked the end of an eight-week blended learning course.
Led by fellow Commission colleague Jill Chrisp, the workshop provided an opportunity for participants from 19 NHRIs to share experiences, knowledge, and skills about how we could educate both those affected by human rights breaches and those with a duty to uphold human rights, on their rights and duties more effectively.
Presentations, group discussions, and debates took place over the course of the week. Shawn and I did a joint presentation on using digital communications as a human rights education tool as well as presenting on key issues in our respective work areas. For example, I presented on opportunities and challenges in being a ‘go between’ between government and the disability community in relation to human rights issues.
One of the highlights for me was learning about the experiences of colleagues in other countries. It was eye-opening to hear about some of the human rights issues they face and what they are doing to address them, particularly in countries that have experienced conflict such as Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Palestine. While some issues were very different to what we face here in New Zealand, many of the key human rights principles were similar.
Likewise, while some of our NHRIs work very differently, there were commonalities in the role we have and the challenges we face. This meant we could come up with solutions which could be adapted to the context of each country and that I was able to get some great ideas on how to incorporate human rights education principles more into the Commission’s work.
Another highlight for me was spending time with fellow participants outside the workshop. With a free day before the workshop started, a few of us took the opportunity to visit the Grand Palace and take a long boat ride down the river. As a wheelchair user, I wasn’t sure this would be possible, but thanks to some determination and the help of my fellow participants, we had a successful trip.
Other highlights included taking a Thai cooking class (I will never have such good tom yum soup again), riding in tuk tuks, and buying printed shirts at street markets.
After a week of workshopping, networking, and friendship building, we said our goodbyes. Thanks to Facebook, we have kept in touch in the weeks following and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Back in in New Zealand, the Commission is in the process of developing an online human rights education tool taking some of what we learned at the workshop on board. Watch this space!