Today is International Human Rights Day! Human Rights Day has been celebrated across the world since 1950 to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

The curriculum of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) begins with interactive sessions on democracy, human rights, and problem solving. These themes are the basis of the programand relate to later sessions on hygiene, health, literacy, math, and project management. By centering the program on human rights, participants are able to identify rights-affirming practices they wish to reinforce in their communities and harmful practices they wish to abandon.

Human rights provide a framework for communities to evaluate their needs and to design action plans that include the needs of everyone. When human rights are used as the basis for development, initiatives can better take into account the need for balance in ensuring that benefits are extended to all groups; women, men, children, people with disabilities, and people from different ethnicities all deserve to benefit.

International Human Rights Day also marks the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. Yesterday, 15 communities in Diégoune in the Ziguinchor region of Senegal held an awareness-raising event with Tostan’s Peace and Security Project centered on the theme “Violence against women remains an obstacle to peace .” Communities presented how abandoning all forms of violence can lead to more peace in the home, the community, and beyond through theater, speeches, song, and dance. Read more about the event and about how the Peace and Security Project promotes peace at the grassroots.

Today, the first ever public declaration promoting the Respect for Human Rights will take place in Cambadju, Guinea-Bissau with the participation of 75 communities.

This is the first of three Human Rights Declarations to be held by communities in Guinea-Bissau. In total, 144 villages will come together to promote grassroots initiatives that ensure that everyone’s fundamental human rights are respected in their communities. On December 20, 40 communities will participate in a declaration in Pirada, and on January 8, an additional 29 communities will hold a declaration in Mansodé.

Tostan began implementing the Community Empowerment Program in 39 communities in three regions of Guinea-Bissau in 2009 in partnership with the Government of Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF, and UNFPA.  Three local NGOs also participated in the training and project implementation.  

The three upcoming declarations are historic in that this is the first time that participants of the Tostan program have collectively decided to publically embrace all human rights and responsibilities in addition to abandoning the practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage. Stay tuned for articles on all three declarations on our blog.