Re: Challenges in human rights education participatory methodologies

Thank you Theresa for giving us these practical insights into the clear
participatory case for engaging different groups - and for the need to
respond flexibly with various media tools; visual, print, etc., to
changing, sensitive or perhaps unknown social practices or circumstances.

If you don't mind, I'd like to follow-up with two questions:  do you think
proper social disclosure of prevailing practices can better inform and
perhaps influence the methodology design so as to maximize desirable
outcomes?  It would be nice to first arrive at a better understanding of
the perceptions (or misperceptions) of the targeted group about human
rights education first and fashion the tools afterwards.  By talking to
the various members of the group through open consultations, workshops, or
interviews, the reasons that may lead some members to reject or dismiss
the messages later could become clear.  And with that knowledge in hand,
one can then adapt and shape their methods and solutions to deliver that
message in, if you will, a friendlier or culturally-sensitive manner.

This brings me to the second question: would it have been possible to
arrive at these beneficial insights if such disclosures had not preceded
the design of the tools and methods?  From experience, I find that
permanent disclosure with the members of the targeted group builds trust
that is necessary to properly address certain social concerns that may or
will arise during training workshops.  And if trust was not available, the
best intentions and solutions offered may fall on deaf ears if not create
tension between the "teacher" and "student".

Osama M. Rajkhan
Social Affairs Officer and Human Rights Focal Point
Population and Social Integration Section
Emerging Social Issues Division
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: (66-2) 288-1845, Fax: (66-2) 288-1030

On 28 October 2005, Theresa Limpin wrote:
Dear all,

My name is Theresa Limpin and I am the Regional Coordinator of the Asia
Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC). I have
been a practitioner and an avid endorser of participatory methodology in
human rights education for many years now.

I have just finished a brief presentation of understanding what is
participatory methodology in human rights education to a   group of NGO
workers, M.A. students, and human rights advocates at an annual regional
human rights study forum being held here in Thailand in recent days.

My observation remains, that there is a broad range of perceptions on what
is participatory methodology in human rights education depending on
practice and context. Some believe that facilitating a question and answer
process in a learning session is participatory methodology in human rights
education. Others who are attached to this term goes beyond this practice.
It is the process of animating, using games, activities to get people's
attention, sharing of experiences on the different concepts being shared.
In addition, other would even say it must involve and lead to concrete
human rights action.

The experiences of many NGOs on human rights education methodologies are
largely unwritten. The richness of the experiences are not well documented.
At the same time, the methodologies being employed are misunderstood in
many cases. Many people would considered participatory, creative
methodologies as: only good for fun, time consuming, shallow, insensitive,
lacking in follow-up.

These comments consider participatory, creative methodologies as important
for the initial introduction of the participants, to break the ice, or keep
participants awake. But beyond these, there is no other role for these
methodologies. Still many see participatory, creative methodologies as
unnecessary because they only take time and can offend the sensitivities of
the participants.

These comments are not giving participatory, creative methodologies a
positive image. They limit them to a minor role in the educational process
or judge them as hardly useful. This shows that participatory, creative
methodologies are hardly understood. I find these impressions detrimental
to participatory methodology in human rights education especially if we
wanted to influence the formal education to be practicing participatory
methodology in teaching human rights.

We need to prove that participatory methodology in human rights education
makes a difference. More and more critical and in depth studies and
researches pertaining to  participatory methodologies in human rights
education  are needed to be studied carefully and given importance.

At a practical recommendation I would say, we need instructional videos on
participatory methodologies in human rights education be produced and
effectively distributed to target users for us to be able to enriched the
pedagogy in human rights education.

To end, please visit the ARRC website for the electronic copy of the
following research work we did on human rights education participatory
methodologies in Asia and the Pacific in the past and in recent year:

1. Report on the Asia Human Rights Education Trainers Colloquium, 2003.
2. Reclaiming Voices: A Study on Participatory Methodologies in the
Asia-Pacific, 2004.

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