Young People, Promoting and Protecting Human Rights through Fellowships
Human rights defenders advocate and campaign against all kinds of human rights violations as they occur. In this way, defenders contribute to securing justice on behalf of victims in specific cases of human rights violation and to breaking patterns of impunity, thereby preventing potential or incessant violations. The same groups of defenders also work to strengthen the State’s capacity to prosecute perpetrators of violations, for example by providing human rights training for prosecutors, judges and the police. Young people who make up the bulk of the population in Africa have shown remarkable progress in the protection of Human Rights, but capacity build gaps still remains. Resource mobilization has been a hindrance for young people who want to take the lead in the promotion and protection of human rights at communal level. To this regards, Cameroon Human Rights Fellowship was conceived by a consortium of 04 partners lead by Community Centre for Integrated Development, Rural Women Development Center and hosted by Saint Monica University. The goal of this project is to engage young activists in the informed, responsive and sustained promotion of human rights. Further to this, the goal is designed to establish a continuous program of research, education and information to enhance the respect of human rights in Cameroon. This project is informed and guided by the rationale that; protection and promotion of human rights is not limited to a single topic, sector, or government ministry (ies), department(s) or agency (ies) rather this are actions that require informed, sustained and all-inclusive action by a cross section of stakeholders with a particular focus on young people. The project sought to achieve the following;
- To mainstream teaching and research on the interconnectedness of Human Rights, Gender, Equality, Peace and Security;
- To retool the youth with skills, knowledge to advocate for and promote human rights;
- To provide Human Rights opportunities for students and advocates; and
- To create platforms for experience sharing on Human Rights, Peace and Conflict studies with mentors, experts and practitioners through online learning platform.
- To design and implement people-focused community initiatives to promote access, awareness, practice and enjoyment of human rights.
The fellowship project took place for 9 months (July 2016 – March 2017). This project provided 20 male and female practitioners, scholars, advocates and students with the opportunity to conduct research and share knowledge in the field of human rights and its applicability to the Cameroonian context. The project prioritized on recruiting young fellows who are grounded in their respective communities in development work and human rights advocacy and have relevant work experience in its promotion. During the fellowship program, fellows spend 3 – 6 months researching, writing and building capacity to address different human rights issues. Fellows eventually connect with students and others interested in the program with the goal of addressing the challenges in Cameroon. fellows under mentorship from mentor design and implement grassroots advocacy campaigns on behalf of the indigenous people, promotion of civil, political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and the most innovative receive $1000 USD in seed grant funding for related ventures. This project will be two-phased to achieve the most impact. The first aspect of the project was delivered through an online learning course on Human Rights and Gender Equality and a physical training led by a team of 06 seasoned experts with years of practical experience and theoretical knowledge on local and international law provisions on access, practice and enjoyment of human rights. The online platform also served as an avenue to further research and establish comparatives of human rights practices and violations to those taking place globally.
The second aspect of the project is a face to face and online mentoring by experts. Fellows are linked with fellows who mentor them through their personal projects and projects for those who were awarded seed grants for community projects. whereby engagements will not be restricted to select hours rather will be platforms for engagement on a need is basis. The following activities were carried out as part of the fellowship:
- Linking fellows to Human Rights Defenders: During the fellowship, fellows had the opportunity to engage seasons defenders to increase their understanding, effectiveness and ability to advocate, practice and influence human rights activities in their communities.
- Retooling, Strengthen and increasing the reach of human rights clinics by setting up “Human Rights Hubs”: Through the Hubs, fellows and human rights actors collaborate on research (promoted in working papers and seminars), capacity building and policy dialogues. This Hub also provided the opportunity for networking between human rights promoters and activists, local authorities and international organizations that value human rights among other key stakeholders.
- Seed Funding: During the application process, potential fellows submitted an action plans as well as a project outlines which must encompass community outreach, campaigning, awareness raising and building the capacities of communities and community leaders and received $1000 in the implementation of the project.