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MyJustice partner, Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), has been conducting Village Agency Workshops in Noh Ber Baw village in Belin Township of Mon state, as part of the work in the programme, where a broad range of legal awareness strategies are being used by multiple partners. These community-focused and inclusive workshops are aimed at building capacity and agency among community members to equip them with skills to record details of human rights violations, so that they can protect themselves from future human rights abuses and claim their rights.

Facilitators, trained by KHRG, conducted an intensive two-day workshop in August, with 25 participants including youth group members, teachers and elders attending the workshop. The workshops are designed to enable interaction and consultation. The sessions open with a substantive discussion on human rights and draw on KHRG’s training manual that include discussions on human rights concepts, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), Karen National Union (KNU)’s land policies and also discusses how human right violations can be reported to KHRG. It aims to equip people with both theoretical and practical skills.

Group work sessions and case study discussions are key methods used by the facilitators. For example, the idea that,‘human rights are for all human beings in the world, and each specific right is an indivisible part of the whole’ is illustrated through the depiction and comparison to Tar K’Paw soup, a traditional Karen rice porridge, where each ingredient plays an integral role in the dish. This is followed by a session in which examples are provided by the facilitators with participants identifying if they classify as human rights violations.

“We gained an understanding about human rights, concepts of non-discrimination and now we are aware of human rights abuses in our own community. I would like to put into practice, in my work, the concepts of non-discrimination and respect for the rights of all people,” said female participant from village.

Villagers discuss the strategies they use to protect themselves from human rights violations and their own personal experiences of human right abuse. The final stage of the workshop focuses on how villagers can use their agency to improve their human rights situation. During the workshop a community leader shares experiences of good practice and time is also devoted to a discussion of the Karen National Union (KNU)’s land policies, since land related disputes are a key issue in these communities.

Another participant said, “this is the first time I have attended a training of this sort and I gained new knowledge on human rights articles which help us identify human rights violations and I also learnt how I can report such issues to the KHRG team. When someone faces a human rights violation in my community, I will help them complain and connect them to a responsible person.”