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Somali students in the UDHR training project holding up a poster illustrating Article 8 of the Declaration

Somali students’ training project fosters a new generation of human rights defenders

10 February 2020

Two-hundred and thirty Somali students aged between 15 and 17 have attended new courses on the wide range of rights and freedoms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in a series of trainings that seek to also train future human rights trainers.

Freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of movement, equality and non-discrimination, right to education, right to life, liberty and security of a person, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, were among the human rights principles that the students’ discovered were also enshrined in their country’s Provisional Federal Constitution.

Somalia’s educational curriculum does not include specialized human rights courses. To make up for that absence, since 2018, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia has joined forces with Joint Human Rights Programme to provide a series of training courses and awareness raising activities in the capital, Mogadishu, on the values enshrined in the UDHR and the principles of Somalia’s Provisional Federal Constitution.

The project comprised two phases. The first phase consisted in teaching a number of students their human rights and responsibilities, and inspire them to defend their rights and those of others. The second phase, which started in January 2020, will focus on training future universities human rights trainers and equip them with the knowledge and tools needed to advocate for human rights.

“Somalia faces many challenges including continuing conflict, and civil, political, socio-cultural and economic challenges which hinder our enjoyment of basic rights,” one of the trainers said. “The human rights training made me realize that raising awareness of human rights can make a difference, and what motivates me is the hope to witness positive developments in the realization of our human rights.”

The trainees were given copies of the UDHR translated into Somali and, during a post-training assessment, they were able to produce artworks that reflected their understanding of human rights.

Somalia’s universities play an important role in students’ lives as well as their communities’. Human rights awareness can give universities a shared language of equality, non-discrimination, inclusion, respect, dignity and participation, all principles that can influence policies and are the basis for decision-making within Somali communities.

To date, nine training courses have been implemented in nine universities in Mogadishu. Students and trainers recommended replicating the exercise in other universities in Somalia.

  • I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you
  • When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone's rights are undermined, so I will stand up
  • I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.

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