“Active Participation Empowers”

Active Participation EmpowersEditor’s note:  As the IMAXI Cooperative and friends are currently ‘all active’ on the All Aboard research project on meaningful participation in global health governance, the post below from Claudio Schuftan rings a timely bell.  With our severe lack of capacity and resources, the bell resonates loudly.
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Human Rights Reader 287
by Claudio Schuftan

In human rights work, it is the highly unequal relations of power that severely limit the terms of citizens’ active participation and representation.

1. Oppressed people that lack the capacity for collective action are historically doomed. That is where empowerment comes-in in human rights (HR) work. Actually, for us, the very meaning of participation is empowerment. It pursues a significant input in decision making processes rather than mere consultation. In our case, among other, empowerment implies that, to make progress, claim holders have to use tools such as legal* and political action, i.e., we see participation as exercising a painstakingly earned political right.

As someone said, the problem is that: “Part of being powerless is that people are always speaking on our behalf”. Are we those “people”…?


*: Seeking a redress for HR violations, access to justice and justiciability constitutes one of the tools for strengthening community empowerment initiatives; another is organizing the de-facto, vocal expression of community demands through active mobilization.

2. As the Occupy Movement around the world has shown, the voices of protest become insignificant and devoid of power when they are contradicted by the media and the computers of officialdom (…and of the secret service). As Amartya Sen rightfully reminded us, some of the real progress that has happened in recent years has come from public discussion –and from agitation.

3. From a HR perspective, a country can be doing well or bad. But in order to be doing well it has to want to do well. Do most countries want to do well? I have my doubts. If they do not really want to (beyond the lip service of their too often undemocratic leaders), it shows, because community efforts in them are thwarted and vanish before becoming a-political-force-to-reckon-with. Social cohesion, pragmatic solidarity across social classes and ultimately moral and political power are key ingredients to see change materialize in any society.

Participation as exercising a political right

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Towards Total Empowerment

total empowermentTowards Total Empowerment…
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Food for an unacceptable patriarchal thought
Human Rights Reader 408

IN 1793, THE MILITANT REVOLUTIONARY OLYMPIA DE GOUGES PROPOSED A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN INCLUDING THEIR CIVIC RIGHTS. THE GUILLOTINE CHOPPED HER HEAD. (Eduardo Galeano)

In many parts of the world, cows are given more rights than women. (Huffington Post)

We cannot let anybody forget the-female-face-of-poverty

1. Women are subjected to multiple and intersecting discrimination and negative gender stereotypes that continue to subjugate them and impede efforts to achieve equality between men and women. Not only do discrimination and stereotypes prevent women from escaping poverty, but they inhibit women’s political participation and, therefore, among other, their ability to influence the distribution of resources.

2. While both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. Women rendered poor and living in poverty face extra marginalization. Measures targeted to reduce women’s poverty are thus critical. Therefore, starting by collecting better information to track how poverty affects women differently, is essential for solving the problem. Let us be categorical: Ending extreme poverty will come within reach only by fully involving women and respecting their rights –at every step along the way. (http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/in-focus/poverty#sthash.NoITORtY.dpuf)

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