The Youth Initiatives for Community Development (YICD), a non-governmental organisation based in Mutoko, Zimbabwe, held a three-day training workshop to equip human rights defenders with knowledge on protecting civil and political rights at a community level.
A total of 23 human rights defenders, 13 men and 10 women, were trained on human rights monitoring, reporting and documentation, security and protection, and advocacy.
Established in 2011, YICD’s main objective is to improve the lives and livelihoods of youth and women in Mutoko through research, capacity building, information dissemination and advocacy initiatives. Not only is the Mutoko area a political hotbed, it is also a site of contestation over black granite, which has been mined in the area for over twenty-four years but has not yielded meaningful benefits for the community.
In November 2014, Hivos in partnership with the Royal Netherlands Embassy provided YICD with support to develop a network of human rights defenders with skills to monitor, report and respond to human rights violations in Mutoko District. To improve access to information, YICD proposed to establish a community resources centre. The project is also aimed at equipping young people with skills on how to use social networks, new technologies and citizen journalism in the defence of human rights.
According to an assessment conducted by YICD, the citizens of Mutoko lack access to information and education on human rights and are not aware of their fundamental human rights and freedoms as provided for in the new Zimbabwe Constitution. In addition, community human rights defenders in Mutoko District lack access to counselling services and information resources that are essential for conducting human rights advocacy, monitoring and documentation.
“During the training, there was discussion on how young people can popularise human rights and the new Constitution in Mutoko District. Young people were equipped with skills on how to work on human rights issues in a highly political volatile district,” said Takwana Phillip Muyengwa, Projects Coordinator at YICD.
“There were also discussions on how extractive industries that are mining black granite in Mutoko are grossly violating people’s rights in the community and the impacts of black granite extraction on community livelihoods. The community is at the receiving end of all the negative impacts of the extraction of black granite, and there is a need for community human rights defenders to step up work in this area.”
Since November 2014, the project has managed to score some success, including establishment of a fully functional resource and information centre where human rights defenders and community members can access information. An average of 100 people are accessing the resource centre on a monthly basis. YICD also established a social media presence, which is slowly growing.
Following the training, the community human rights defenders will be expected to organise and facilitate human rights awareness outreach activities throughout the Mutoko District.