What Human Rights Work?

Human rights are indivisible, which means they are all equally important. This is why KIOS supports all human rights work, be it for economic, social and cultural rights or civil and political rights. Women’s rights, the rights of vulnerable groups and access to justice are themes regularly in the center of our partners work.

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

The work for women’s rights has been on-going for decades locally, regionally and globally. Despite the perseverance of this work and the progress made, the inequality between men and women still persists in the global realm. Based on their gender, women still face several kinds of discrimination in different parts of the word.

Most states have ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW. However, there are huge differences between the states in the implementation and impact of the Convention. National legislations or deeply rooted traditions may hamper the realization of internationally recognized rights of women. The most significant violations of women’s rights include violence against women, forced marriages, non-access to education and breaches to the right to property and right to participation.

The organizations supported by KIOS work in different ways for the betterment of women’s rights and gender equality. The organizations train women and authorities on human rights issues and offer legal aid to women who are victims of human rights violations. Also, documentation of human rights violations and raising awareness among authorities and decision makers are among the key activities in enhancing the rights of women.

In Nepal, KIOS has supported the establishment of women human rights defenders’ network. This work has been significant in improving the security of the defenders and enhancing the impact of their work. In Burundi, awareness on violence against women has been raised through KIOS support, which has resulted in women speaking up more openly about the issue and seeking redress. In Pakistan, KIOS has supported women’s possibilities to vote. In South Asia, support has been given for training human rights defenders on economic, social and cultural rights and for using this knowledge for the improvement of gender equality.

Rights of Vulnerable Groups

Vulnerable group refers to groups of people in a more vulnerable position than an average person. Vulnerable groups may differ from one society to another; often religious and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, people with HIV/Aids and women are among the vulnerable. The people belonging to these groups are often – but not always – more vulnerable to discrimination and human rights violations than others.

Unjust legislations as well as prejudice and deeply rooted beliefs can lead to discrimination of vulnerable groups. The people belonging to vulnerable groups don’t have equal rights with others within societies, for instance equal right to participate in the activities of a society, and thus they are discriminated against. In practice, active measures are needed in order to realize the rights of the vulnerable groups. Without these measures the vulnerable groups will even more likely be exploited and discriminated against.

KIOS works directly with members of vulnerable groups to promote their rights. This way it is easier to answer to the actual needs of the communities. The rights of the most vulnerable are enhanced, for instance, through training the people belonging to the vulnerable groups, the authorities and the human rights defenders, through legal aid and awareness raising or through advocacy work.

With KIOS support, the situation of the Dalits has improved in Bangladesh. This can be witnessed through the growing numbers of Dalit children taking part in primary education or through the decrease in the numbers of child marriages in Dalit communities. In Burundi, KIOS has supported awareness raising among the Batwa people (Pygmy tribe), their access to services and awareness of local authorities on the rights of indigenous groups. In Sri Lanka, Uganda, Bangladesh and Kenya KIOS has supported work for the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

Access to Justice

Access to justice means the ability to seek and obtain a remedy for the violations they have gone through. This can be done through formal or informal justice mechanisms, for instance through a court procedure. There may be different barriers to access to justice within societies.

People may not always be aware of their rights or how to seek remedy in case of violations of their rights. People may also fear the justice system or its representatives if they feel that these don’t really work for the realization of the rights of ordinary citizens. In addition, the police may be corrupt or the judges ignorant for example towards the rights of women or minorities. People may also lack the financial means to go through court processes. In some cases, the justice system itself is weak and corrupt. It may be especially hard for the most vulnerable groups, such as the poorest of societies, to get justice when their rights have been violated.

The organizations and actors supported by KIOS work to create awareness on human rights, they train judges and the police, give legal aid and assistance and follow the implementation of court judgements.

In South Asia, KIOS partners have trained judges and lawyers on the use of public interest litigation, in order to improve the rights of bigger groups of people. KIOS has also supported raising awareness of Dalits on their own rights in India and Bangladesh. In Kenya, a public interest litigation case has been started dealing with the right to clean and safe environment among the communities living in slums of Mombasa. Promoting access to justice is central in the work of KIOS partners, both in East Africa and South Asia.