Fellows can overcome reservations of local individuals participating in the project by being conscious of the local context and striving to be politically neutral.  Fellows should be sensitive and adjust accordingly to possible negative connotations of the concept of human rights.

A. Build Working Relationships and Overcome Suspicions

1.  Swaziland
To overcome suspicions of community leaders, Buhle presented his workshop as an opportunity for partnership with an international organization through a series of presentations.

Buhle also gained support of important political players through sensitivity to subjects that could damper the relationship with governmental officials. For example, during talks with community leaders, difficulties ensued when the subject of torture was introduced. Buhle refrained from undertaking an accusatory stance. Instead, he referred to a local group notorious for torture, and explained how he was able to conduct a training with them effectively regardless of their reputation.

Community leaders and politicians wanted to be perceived as helping their community.  Buhle allowed a façade to exist between him and community leaders and politicians by allowing them to present the partnership as their effort. He did not dispute claims that the community leaders and politicians arranged for an NGO to help the community, though in fact he had initiated the partnership.

Buhle remained politically neutral in his public persona.  For example, Buhle cancelled one workshop because its speaker was a man who worked at a youth organization that opposed the state.

B. Be sensitive to possible negative connotations of the concept of human rights

1. Swaziland
Buhle found that the public and key stakeholders were skeptical of the concept of human rights. Buhle noted that several workshops were cancelled because of suspicion by the community police. Due to the government's negative political stance towards ‘western conceptions’ and ‘human rights,’ many traditional leaders were less inclined to allow human rights groups into their chiefdoms. To combat this, Buhle initially avoided talking about human rights; instead, he talked about the law broadly, then discussed Customary Laws, and gradually broached the subject of human rights.

2.  Nigeria
John Densky noted that the government was opposed to NGOs, and that they are considered enemies of the state. Thus, the Fellow and his team were cautious about who they associated with and what they said in the public forum.

C. Special considerations for women

Many countries still have defined gender roles. For example, in Swaziland, Buhle noted that women were unwilling to speak at workshops due to the custom of discouraging women from addressing men in public, as well as socialization that made women feel inferior. Several tactics were employed to overcome this problem, including an introduction made by a female member of Buhle's team posing gender-specific questions, and the practice of purposefully selecting women in the audience to respond. This technique helped ensure that women participated and as a result, Buhle found women in the audience more willing to share their opinions.


Last modified: Friday, 23 June 2017, 1:48 PM