personal reflections on human rights...and other stuff

Row Row Row Your Boat

Day 3, almost 1 AM



On the way back to the hotel from the cruise on the Bosphorus. Sitting next to one of the participants, and I asked her, Do you think most people in Iraq have lost a family member during the war? Her answer was Yes, of course. She recounted the story of her father’s cousin. His twin daughters were in a car when they were attacked by terrorists (these are her words). They shot and killed one on the spot, their father heard the screams and came running, the twin had been shot as well, both died. Tomorrow, we’re asking the group to complete a simple sentence: I became a human rights educator because…We’ll see what happens.

Our facilitator’s meeting ended ten minutes to midnight, I think that’s a record. Mind you we started at about 11 PM. I’m surprised (pleasantly so) that two participants still attended the meeting, and had a lot to say. It’s rare to see that kind of commitment. The meeting focused a lot on group processes.

Next day, in the workshop room, 11:15 AM
Dammit I had a snack with seeds, got a couple stuck between my teeth, I’ll have to take care of that in a minute. A change of pace in the workshop, and one for the better. We rearranged the schedule in order to have participants sit in their small groups according to target audience and take the first hour to work in their Workbook. After an hour, everyone wanted to continue to work in their small groups, so that’s what they did. So an extra half hour. Then break, and they still wanted to continue. So we’re taking another half hour. I’ve just spoken to our main facilitator and he thinks we should continue, so he’s now asking the rest of the team. I want to strike a good balance between satisfying participants and making sure we spend the right amount of time on this – not too much so they become unfocused, and not too little time so they feel shortchanged.

So that’s it. The facilitator just came back and gave me the answer: All of them want to continue.

Looking back at what we did yesterday, our resource person on gender began by dividing us into two groups and telling us this: pretend we are in a crisis situation in Turkey, there has been a political coup and all the borders are closed. We do not know how long we will be here. What do we do? Each group took a few minutes to brainstorm some ideas. When we got back together as one group, our resource person asked the first group what they came up with. And then she continued onto another subject, ignoring the second group. No! came the protests. We haven’t told you what we thought! That’s OK, said the resource person, everything you said was probably addressed by the first group, what you say doesn’t matter.

The point, of course, is that it does matter. And anyone in a crisis situation such as the one in this exercise – or any other situation, for that matter – no matter who they are, do have something to contribute in terms of ideas, experience, skills, participation, and making decisions. In another workshop, she did another exercise that was also a very “in your face” demonstration of discrimination, and both these exercises helped participants reflect on the blatant and obvious forms of discrimination against women, and then to examine indirect or hidden forms.

After a PowerPoint presentation on gender concepts, our resource person divided participants into three groups and had them respond to one of three questions:

- How have gender roles changed in Iraq since the war?
- What types of violence and human rights violations do men and women face since the war?
- What have been the changes in access to resources for men and women since the war?

And all that in 20 minutes. They skirted the issues, but will return to them throughout the workshop.

It’s almost 12:30 now, and the participants are still in their groups. One group has decided to take a break, but the others are going strong. The rest of the day yesterday was on the Bosphorus Strait, and I’ve learned that a networking energizer making all participants stand in a circle in a poorly-ventilated area for 20 minutes is not a good idea. One participant turned as green as the water and had to sit down; a couple of others were feeling a little seasick. We had planned to do small group work and talk about networking while on the boat. After the participants took several hundred photos, I asked the main facilitator if we were going to get any work done. No, came the prompt reply. So we had a change of plans and decided to skip the Workbook and focus on the networking. When do we start? The facilitator asked. By time we pass that bridge, I pointed. They had a lot of questions on the topic, and we did make some headway, but we’ve still got a long way to go. So we’ll take up the subject again before the end of the workshop.

Today, we haven’t gotten to the part mentioned earlier in this blog, and that was to have participants reflect on why they are human rights educators. I think I’ll change the topic slightly to what motivates them to be human rights educators, and we’ll take it from there.

More later, p



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