Understanding Culture
Protecting Human Rights
A. Obaid

UNFPA Executive Director
Gender Equity Human Rights

Sierra Leone

Laying the groundwork

People & Change
Local Context
Hard Data
Cultural Values

Starting off right
Bulding in sustainability
Caring for the individual
Gaining support through advocacy
The Projects

Understand the local context
Violations of women's rights are often sanctioned under the cover of local cultural practices and norms. People simply inherit the customs and traditions by which they live and rarely think to question them. Promoting change requires an understanding of the role of violence against women in a particular contextits origins, how it operates, the myths associated with it, and the mechanisms and attitudes that perpetuate it. One must explore how victims themselves perceive this violence, how others perceive the victim, and the consequencesif any for the perpetrator.A successful project in Colombia began with a labour-intensive process of learning about communities. In the words of one project staff member, understanding the needs and aspirations of people requires that you 'enter their reality' that you spend the time necessary to understand their beliefs, motivations, perceptions and values without making judgements or casting blame.

It is important to approach Magdalena Medio [Colombia] and its problems without rushing, so that we may listen calmly, so that we may understand the people, their rhythms, their way of understanding, their way of doing things.''

A Jesuit priest
Deputy Director of the Programme for Development and Peace in Magdalena Medio, Colombia


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