Day 4 – Human Rights and Gender in Development

The morning session began with a broad, imaginative question: Your boat has capsized and all if the people on the boat were saved. If you had to start a community with them from the start, how would the rights of people in your community get enacted? Participants had to consider which civil or social rights they would include. Gripping topics ranging from privacy to euthanasia was discussed.

After the participants defended their reasoning, we shifted the conversation to the world today by critically analyzing the state of human rights in their home countries. The participants deliberated that even when taking economic factors and the level of development out of the equation, there was still a long way to go to ensure human rights in all countries exclusively. We spent time reviewing the human rights status in Eswatini and how the country’s legal system affected its development. One practice we examined and baffled many participants was one called “kungenwa” which loosely translates to a woman being forced to sleep with her late husband’s brother as a cleansing ceremony. This present-day violation of human rights left participants pondering about the difficult barriers to development both in Eswatini and their home countries.

After a break between dense topics, the afternoon gave us the opportunity to discuss gender’s role in development. Why do we need to think about gender when we think about any type of development? How do different genders experience and are affected by the policies and initiatives that are put in place? We began this conversation with the “opinion spectrum,” an activity in which facilitators read controversial statements and participants have to place themselves in the strongly agree vs strongly disagree spectrum. The discussing brought about gender stereotypes that are engrained and perpetuated constantly by our cultures, the media, our behaviors, our education, amongst other factors. The discussing was always intertwined with other economic and political aspects – making it clear that for any change to be successful you need both genders to be considered.

Immediately following, participants were divided into the following groups: government & political participation, poverty alleviation and economic growth, access to education, climate change and sustainability, and health. In each pillar, where are we failing to consider women and men’s needs? What would be possible solutions to help balance the disproportion.

While Together for Development, focuses the most common forms of development, self-development is a pillar of our topics and an objective of the course. After the theme-day afternoon sessions finished, we spent time in small groups discussing a poem related to the meaning of life in general. The poem challenged participants with the question “are you in the end, someone you truly love?” which inculcated self-love and self-discovery. Participants were then asked to define what “together for development” meant to them. Tears cascaded down the cheeks of one of the participants when she was expressing her heartfelt appreciation to the TFD team by disregarding one’s humble financial background but offering some scholarships to the participants who hail from financially disadvantaged families. The ability for our groups to be reflective and be open shows an incredible progression in just a short couple of days.

The night ended with a dispirited and saddening yet inspirational talk from John Michael Koffi, a refugee and UWCRB alumnus who has lived in much of east Africa, southern Africa, Europe and northern America. He is a poet, author, singer, songwriter and a public speaker. He shared his story as a refugee by reading a snippet from his memoir book Refugee- The Journey Much Desired. He touched on how universality is hard to achieve. He drew the dramatic comparison of the USA visa to that of a refugee highlighting how they shall be treated differently just based on what is inscribed on a passport.  He summed up the day by saying that, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is nothing when just on a paper without a proper enforcement and warned that right vary from country to country. And that UDHR is more of an ideal than a reality and what matters is the universality of human rights.