Fighting For Human Rights

Last month we told you about our successful Teacher Training Workshops for Human Rights, which are run in collaboration with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Sima Samar, the Chairperson of the AIHRC, has made remarkable contributions toward advancing human rights, and her journey to get here wasn’t easy.

After earning a degree in medicine, Samar worked as a doctor in Kabul and remote areas of central Afghanistan. In 1984, the communist regime arrested her husband, and she fled to Pakistan with her young son. While working at a hospital for Afghan refugees, Samar quickly became distressed by the lack of health care facilities in the region. She established the Shuhada Organization in 1989, which opened clinics dedicated to Afghan women and girls. Shuhada later expanded to operate schools, literacy courses, income generation programs and women’s shelters.

Samar returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to serve first as Deputy Chair and then as Minister of Women’s Affairs under President Hamid Karzai. She was one of only two female cabinet ministers. She was later appointed Chairperson of the AIHRC. In this position, Samar oversees the human rights education programs across the country, such as Barakat’s Teacher Training Workshops for Human Rights. She has also served as United Nations Special Reporter on the situation of human rights in Sudan since 2005.

Sima Samar

The government of Afghanistan struggles to educate its citizens about human rights and to spread that message to the entire community, not just the men. Because we know that women pass on their education, we specifically seek out women and men in our human rights workshops, with 85 women participating this year and most sessions led by at least one female trainer. “Peace cannot happen without respect for human rights and of course participation of women as half of the population,” says Samar.

Since 2008 Barakat has worked with the AIHRC on human rights teacher training workshops, with the number of participants growing each year. For the 2010-2011 school year we trained 180 teachers, a 30 percent increase over the previous year to meet the growing demand!

“Education is really the most basic tool in order to fight for our rights,” says Samar. Barakat is proud to work with the AIHRC to educate more Afghans about human rights, allowing the country to make progress.