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Making gender equality the everyday work of NHRIs

Graphic: Two Afghan girls smiling

Representatives from the NHRIs of South Asia have pledged to take practical steps to bolster their efforts to promote and protect the rights of women.

Representatives from the national human rights institutions of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka recently met in Kathmandu for five days of discussions and presentations, as part of the APF's inaugural blended learning course on the rights of women and girls.

Identifying the practical steps that NHRIs can take to "mainstream" gender across all areas of their work and operations was one of the key themes of the week-long workshop.

In particular, participants expressed support for the idea of establishing "gender focal points" within their respective NHRIs to ensure that the rights of women and girls receive consistent attention.

"It is absolutely critical that NHRIs consider gender when they monitor places of detention, undertake their complaint handling function, run a national inquiry or analyse the human rights impact of laws and policies," said Pip Dargan, Deputy Director of the APF secretariat.

"Many participants expressed the added value that would come from having a dedicated person or team within their NHRI to ensure that the rights of women and girls were properly integrated into their institution's everyday work," she said.

The workshop, held from 13-17 April 2014 and hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nepal, also provided an opportunity for participating NHRIs to share examples of good practice, such as initiatives to address violence against women.

NHRC Chairperson Justice Anup Raj Sharma urged participants to redouble their efforts to promote gender equality and address the underlying factors that lead to the human rights violations experienced by women and girls.

Citing problems related to discrimination, dowry systems and harmful practices in his address to open the workshop, Justice Sharma noted that women and girls "continue to be marginalised and require greater standards of protection".

As part of the APF blended learning course, participants undertook to develop an "action plan" to promote and protect the rights of women and girls, for implementation by their NHRIs. The APF has also offered two allocations of AUS $5,000 seed funding for two plans, to be announced by the end of June.

Some of the topics discussed by participants included activities focused around reproductive rights, early marriage and violence against women and girls. One of the participants observed that "this was an excellent session that gave us ideas on how to incorporate knowledge gained from the training into the work of our respective institutions."

NHRIs will be required to report back to the APF on how these action plans have been implemented, as part of their broader activities under the APF Regional Action Plan on the Human Rights of Women and Girls.

The workshop followed a five week online learning course that focused on the international standards and mechanisms relating to the rights of women and girls, as well as the ways in which NHRIs can use their mandates to promote gender equality and respond to the human rights abuses experienced by women and girls.

The course was facilitated by Alison Aggarwal, Principal Adviser at the Australian Human Rights Commission, and drew on the APF publication, Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Women and Girls: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions.

NHRC inspectors working in quake-hit communities

The workshop in Kathmandu concluded one week before the first earthquake hit Nepal causing widespread loss of life and irreparable damage to thousands of buildings. Among the damage was the building belonging to the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, who have since had to operate out of emergency shelters. The APF extends its sincere condolences to all our Nepalese colleagues and their families and wish them a safe road to recovery.

Image credits

  1. Two Afghan girls smiling - Afghanistan Matters. Flickr
  2. NHRC inspectors working in quake-hit communities - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal