MARs Movement: Human Rights Training Camp

From the 5th to 7th of July 2022, Africa Unite hosted a 3-day training camp at the Christian Brothers Centre in Stellenbosch for the youth of the MARs movement (migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees). The camp was composed of workshops that covered a range of topics such as human rights, advocacy and lobbying, conflict resolution, and good governance. The objective of the program was to capacitate the youth with the leadership skills to be active agents of social change. The session was attended, by 20 MARs members from various African countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania). Africa Unite acknowledges that the youth needs to be well-informed on their rights, as refugees, and as human beings, as one cannot exercise these rights without an all-encompassing awareness of them.

The first day of camp included extensive training on human rights principles and practices with the main takeaway being centered around respect and dignity. The youth were educated on the differences and commonalities between universal, inalienable, indivisible, and interdependent rights. Participants left with the ability to articulate distinctions between human rights and civil rights, basic rights and access rights. Different activities fostered critical thinking and application on these subjects: one activity of particular engagement was to evaluate specific African countries and establish why human rights education is necessary for that country.

Furthermore, the discussion emphasized international human rights instruments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and certain limitations of rights. These conversations were especially powerful, as participants engaged with personal experiences in which they may have been a perpetrator, bystander, defender, or victim of certain human rights violations. Participants developed a broader awareness of their role in promoting—or demoting—others’ rights and their own. The training concluded with an emphasis on vulnerable groups, specifically migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.

The training also focused on advocacy and lobbying. The MARs members organized themselves into groups and defined the objectives and activities of their respective groups, focusing on what they have learned and achieved, but also what still needs to be done. After evaluating themselves as a movement, the discussion then turned toward understanding advocacy in general. While advocacy is often defined as pursuing a particular cause or interest and taking action, the meaning of the word was matured to incorporate the true value of advocacy: it is not just something one can practice on behalf of the voiceless, but rather something one can practice to amplify the voiceless so they can speak on their behalf. Here, the difference between power and empowerment was truly recognized.

Finally, the focus turned toward conflict resolution. Tasks were done to demonstrate the influence of labels and stereotypes on our behavior and interactions with others. The conflict was understood in multiple forms by discussing various types, stages, sources, and functions. The knowledge built an understanding necessary for problem-solving and communication skills. This knowledge was then applied to good governance. The youth analyzed the rules and regulations of their movement, as well as of Africa Unite, and provided insight, corrections, and debates regarding certain protocols and procedures.

In conclusion, the 3-day training camp provided valuable education regarding human rights, advocacy and lobbying, conflict resolution, and good governance to the youth members of the MARs movement. Such knowledge made participants confident in their ability to articulate their rights, and to recognize when and if they are ever violated. The camp fostered an empowered youth that now has the ability to empower others.

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