Understanding Culture
Protecting Human Rights
Thoraya
A. Obaid

UNFPA Executive Director
Gender Equity Human Rights

Bangladesh
Colombia
Ghana
Kenya
Mauritania
Mexico
Morocco
Romania
Sierra Leone
Turkey

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



Recognize that culture is dynamic and people are willing to change
Though they may appear traditional, people are often willing to adopt new attitudes, behaviours or practices if they are convinced that such change will improve their lives. In Kenya, for instance, women who traditionally performed female genital mutilation/cutting have turned into powerful allies in the fight against it. The creation of alternative livelihoods for these women, as well as awareness-raising campaigns highlighting the dangers of the practice, were important factors in their decision.In Bangladesh, despite long-standing traditions of child marriage and the giving and receiving of dowries, many villagers now recognize these practices as harmful and are pressuring their peers to reject them. Local imams, who were encouraged to speak out about violence against women in the context of the Koran, were crucial in changing public opinion.

It has become clear that culture is not a sort of ''primortial constraint'' from the past that hinders economicand social progress.Culture is constantly being changed by the people who construct it in the first place.

THORAYA O. OBAID
UNFPA Executive Producer, from the Traverse Lecture,devlivered in Bern, Switzerland on 13 December 2005

 



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