I have always been aspired to become a Rotary Peace Fellow. My dream came true when joining the Rotary Peace Center’s Class 33 at Chulalongkorn University. There is a proverb: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. It has been only five weeks since I started this journey and I truly believe that I am in the process of restoring my academic and practical learning motivations, essentially in-line with this proverb. Particularly during the week five, we engaged in a series of lectures focused on the theory and application of International Law, Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law (IL, IHRL and IHL).
This week reignited my passion for studying Human Rights and Humanitarian Law with a broader regional and international perspective as related to peace, human security and development. The most important part of the class was the opportunity to further develop my theoretical and practical skills alongside my peers. The class lectures offered me a fresh perspective and broaden my horizons on the application of international law, collective security and self-defense and humanitarian intervention as it applies to my own field of study and work in international relations and security studies.
It was such a valuable experience to learn and interact with our sessions’ instructor, Professor Kishu Daswani, and my Class 33 peers coming diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences worldwide.
Dr. Naheed S. Goraya – Pakistan
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 33Read More
Post-Pandemic: Differential impacts on the achievement of women’s and girls’ rights
Due to the sanitary emergency Covid-19 since 2020 until now, there are data and analyses about the backward and deep inequalities when accessing girls’ and women’s human rights. There are international reports such as Gender Global Breach Report 2022 which stated, for example, that women’s job was 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s, or that 132 years are needed to reach gender equality (World Economic Forum 2022). About Latin America’s specific case, the CEPAL (for their name in Spanish) visualize that the structural knots of gender inequality has grown (2021).
The different impact of the negative post-pandemic effects that we are still suffering doesn’t exist only between countries, but, globally speaking, girls and women are the main receptors of inequality and disadvantages of the sanitary emergency.
Not only is the historical disadvantage, but they are the main affected by the economic and political international crisis. The current data and statistics show the continuous setback of women’s rights achievements, as to a persistent condition of disadvantages and unsustainable subordination to the minimum women’s survival, their human rights detriment, life’s quality, and autonomy achieved in the last 100 years. Poverty, unemployment, underemployment, working scarcity, and informality, such as the double and triple work day, are entirely focused on girls and women.
This same post-pandemic inequality can also be seen in the domestic violence against girls and women. The context of violence is generalized, in each country girls and women suffer different ways of violence. In Mexico, for example, the report “Incidencia delictiva y llamadas de emergencia 9-1-1” has a total of 7,632,935 national emergency calls, which the indicator of emergency calls for “violence against women” (is defined as: “all violent act that has or can get a result of physical damage or suffering, sexually or psychologically against women, and the threat of such acts, the coaction or the arbitrary privation of freedom, even if they happen in the public or private life”); during the first semester of 2022 was registered 170,625 calls (8.19%) this without knowing the cases that weren’t reported.
Discrimination and violence against women are not only practiced in private and confidential circles, but also in public spaces, governmental ambits, and the institutional structures and spheres related to the public, economic, social, and cultural systems.
In a great number of countries, mainly in Latin America, “neutrality” in the use of resources, budgets, designing of programs elaboration of public policies, law creation, and making decisions in the public and governmental agenda don’t exist. In the end, girls and women are the glibbest damaged group and receptors of the impact’s disadvantages defined by the sex. Due to the corruption, deviation and misuse of the resources, abuse of authority and confidentiality in the position, administrative irresponsibility, etc., women have been through many injustices, negation, omissions, negligence, impediments, and limits when using their rights, as well as in the attention and access to justice.
The International right through different international instruments, such as Treaties, Covenants, Conventions, Advisory Opinions, court resolutions, platforms, etc., provide to the signing countries guidelines, routes, analysis, and different means to address gender violence against girls and women; social violence, economic, political, institutional, vicarious violence, etc., however, as I stated as the beginning, the post-pandemic data dictates that is not enough.
Understanding differential impacts, it’s one of the keys to the achievement of action and strategies for the benefit of women. The analysis of intersectional data with a focus on human rights brings to light the gravity of the problem to give a better understanding of the post-pandemic phenomenon, to be able to redirect efforts, alliances, decisions making, and focused budgets.
Such as it has been stated in 1995 on the Action Platform from Beijing, the mainstreaming of gender allows us to identify and analyze the differential impact of discrimination, and women’s rights violence. Equal results reproduce and perpetuate the vulnerability condition, subjection, and disadvantages that women have in comparison with men.
Fortunately, the international community and international law keep learning, advancing, and developing new positions, ideas, practices, references, proposes, intermediations, intervention projects, strategic alliances, gender budgeting, programs, projects, etc. After decades of work, it is known that the isolated or unilateral efforts obstruct the real development that societies need, national and international alliances with different and strategical actors and sectors are needed to offer integrity and value to women’s agenda. One clear example is the alliance between Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Rotary Foundation, and Chulalongkorn University to the creation of the valuable project “professional development certificate program at Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University” (Bangkok Thailand), which, particularly for Class 33 (July 2022), is focusing the diversity, inclusion, and gender as part of a valuable contribution to the development of human rights in general and girls and women’s in particular.
Samanta Ruiz Lopez – Mexico
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 33Read More
Some Practical Lessons from the Newest World Country: South Sudan
When I joined the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in December 2019, I did not realize the full significance of my role as an UN Volunteer Human Rights Officer. While preparing to travel for my assignment, I read a lot about the history and current affairs of the country to have an idea of what I was going to face, but I never imagined how this experience would change my life – for good. Coming from Colombia, this was my first assignment in an UN Mission and my first time in Africa.
My work as a Human Rights Officer in South Sudan has given me the opportunity to really connect with people; to engage with local communities and to advocate for the most vulnerable groups in the country; but also, has inspired me to reflect on things/concepts that I thought were absolute truth.
Are human rights for all? Is peace a mere utopia? Is education the key for development? Is culture stronger than international human rights law? Am I making any impact with my job? Honestly, I wish I had an answer to all of those questions, but so far the only thing I know for sure is that I am doing my best with the tools I have. And, that every night I go to bed with a feeling of gratitude and satisfaction for having the opportunity to do what I am passionate about: promoting human rights in the newest world country.
However, it has not been an easy journey. I was stranded for seven months in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, I was burnout, I caught malaria and typhoid, and I injured my knee while playing basketball and travelled back home to get surgery, just to mention some of the events that hit me really hard.
All this being said, I have learnt some lessons during these two-and-a-half years that I have been in Sudan and during the Rotary Peace Program session on well-being that I would like to share here:
You need to take care of yourself first before being able to take care of others. Not the opposite.
Mental health matters.
Do not feel bad for setting boundaries.
Find your own ways of healing. What works for you may not work for others.
Do what feels right for you. Do not let anybody impose their thoughts or beliefs.
Disconnect from the context/scenario which is affecting you -if needed.
Do not feel bad for prioritizing yourself. The world will continue with or without you.
Ask for help. Do not hesitate to do it.
Sandra Martinez – (Colombia and South Sudan)
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 33Read More
A Journey Called “Identities”
To start this post, I would like to provide a little bit of context. I participated in the online phase of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program with Class 32 in a country other than my own country of Brazil. I spent three months in Argentina and this experience strengthened my comprehension of my identity as a Latina. An identity being built since the very first moment I put a backpack on my back and decided that I wanted to know more about this region called Latin America; of which I am a part of it as a Brazilian. I remember the day I achieved a childhood dream – to see, in person, Machu Picchu, in Peru. I was 19 years old and the silence of the fog revealing the ancient mountains and the Inca city thoroughly sculpted and left a mark on my soul. I fell in love with my Latin America.
It is written on the poster: La desiguald – no va más (Spanish)/ Inequality – no more
This post is a mixture of my perceptions of contemporary Brazil as a Brazilian, my reflections about similarities and differences among Latin American countries while in Argentina, and my interest in researching the theme of identities.
Discrimination from a Latin American Point of View:
Growing up in Brazil and being raised by the women in my family, which have a lower class background and are from a rural area in the country, taught me how to live in a society full of prejudices. It also taught me how to look in the eyes of others, similar to and different from me, and see their beauty. For this reason, discriminatory behaviors or policies are intolerable for me.
Brazil faces a high rate of discrimination, especially against black and indigenous people, women, and LGBTQ+ people. This has been confirmed by a survey conducted in Brazil by DataFolha in 2019. Among people that self-identify as black or indigenous who were interviewed, 85% state that they have suffered prejudice. It is impossible to mention discrimination without mentioning the influence of colonialism and imperialism in our history. It is part of our contemporary challenges as Latin Americans to deal with the consequences of our colonial past and the rise of attacks on our young democracies.
Besides the internal discrimination faced in Brazil, from an external perspective, right now Brazil is also playing a discriminatory role against other countries in the region. Under a right-wing extremist government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, conservative Brazilians tend to look at our Latin American neighbors as “others”. And while this separation grows and is legitimated by authorities, some Brazilians as well as national leaders freely express racially frame discrimination against other Latin American people and social movements. When it comes to people, the most affected are the ones coming to Brazil due to the recent forced migration crisis, such as in Haiti and Venezuela. And, when it comes to social change, there are movements against regional government projects and policies, even if they are being successful, in the fields of gender equality, anti-racism practices, sexual diversity, and social justice.
Although Brazil is part of Latin America, 96% of Brazilians don’t see themselves from this perspective, according to The Americas, World: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy 2014 / 2015 Report, and elaborated by the Investigative Center of Teaching in Economy (Mexico). As a comparison, among other countries in the region this rate is at about 43%. We are the only Portuguese speaking country in the region and some historic facts also contribute to this disconnect.
Prophecies: An art series by Brazilian artist Randolpho Lamonier. As translated: IN 2050 WE DISCOVERED: BRAZIL IS ¡LATIN AMERICA! © Randolpho Lamonier
Even though it is not a new issue, this Brazilian aversion to a “Latin identity” grew in relevance during the current government as it revived ideas from the times of the Brazilian military dictatorship between 1964-1985, when Brazilian military authorities considered themselves best friends to the United States of America. Usually, Brazilians deny their Latin identity and, in my opinion, this is a way to deny the atrocities—invasions, slavery, dictatorship, coup d’états, etc.—done in the past and present across our territory. With all this on the table, I would say that Brazil has a problem with its identity and the time to heal is now.
Strengthening Identities in Latin America:
Brazil has had a better relationship with other Latin American countries, and in the past has also been in a better position of promote affirmative policies to repair the historic atrocities against minority groups. This is not the case right now, but with the 2022 elections, I hope we return to a path guided by respect for the beauty of diversity, and by the intention to mitigate discrimination in a practical way, through the improvement and execution of affirmative and social justice policies.
In addition to this, sooner or later, I believe Brazilians will discover they belong to Latin America. What I also believe is that Latin American politicians, activists, and citizens have a lot to learn from each other, exactly because we share the pain of the same wounds and the strength that emerges from our common diversity.
Michelle Bravos – Brazil
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
Leadership and Social Change
According to John C. Maxwell, one needs to discover and implement life choices that will take them beyond their talent. In order for a leader to be successful, he/she has to be effective in leading his/her team to think strategically, innovatively, and sustainably.
About eleven years ago I started my leadership journey with a team of young people and we were all charged with the responsibility to organize the Rotary West African Peace Caravan by, the West African Youth Network (WAYN). The Caravan was designed to promote peace at the grassroots level in four countries across West Africa: Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I met Richelieu Allison, Executive Director of WAYN, at the Liberian-Sierra Leonean border. According to him, he saw a passion in me for peace. With his words of support, I, along with a team of other young people, engaged in a three-day training of trainers’ workshop, participated in a peace caravan, led and inspired young peace builders engaged in remote towns and villages across the four countries to promote peace and regional collaborations.
Growing up, I had always been passionate about developing my leadership skills. This passion led me to join the UN Radio to become a team lead and a child broadcaster. Later, I became more interested and started asking some tough questions related to what is leadership from the African perspective in comparison to that of the Western perspective. It has come to my understanding that leadership is about giving, listening and encouraging. One has to first listen in order to lead effectively. Today, Africa, a continent with a robust youth population, still faces a leadership challenge. Many times, leaders tend to forget that if you cannot swallow your personal pride, succeeding at leadership will rest as a dream unrealized. Many in leadership positions on the African continent maintain the popular belief that popularity is leadership. Their perspective is that a good leader’s goal is to increase his/her followers’ motivation to achieve his/her personal interests.
With this in perspective, I hold the belief that Africa is still developing its core of transformational leaders that will motivate, inspire and stimulate innovation that drives positive social change, which I believe should be the focus. In so doing, leaders need to see themselves as social change agents and hold a strong set of values with the intent to motivate – that which remains a farfetched reality in Africa. As Africa evolves as continent for charismatic leadership, it is very important to develop the growth mindset as failures offer opportunity for growth in leadership.
A good leader must at all times understand the everyday reality and must not forget that in leadership your duty is to always remember your vision, values and purpose for positive social change.
As a case study in point, leaders in Liberia should understand how leadership can facilitate social change to impact the general citizenry. Leaders in Liberia should reflect and employ learning to manage citizens’ expectations while ensuring trust and legitimacy. Leadership in Liberia today should evolve into managing expectations by effectively mobilizing social change and engaging their constituencies in the governance process through inclusive and participatory processes to achieve desired collective outcomes. These areas must be considered for a transformed society in the social change context in Liberia; more collaboration, coordination is needed between government, citizens and civil rights groups.
Amos William – Liberia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More