Understanding Culture
Protecting Human Rights
A. Obaid

UNFPA Executive Director
Gender Equity Human Rights

Sierra Leone

Laying the groundwork

Starting off right
Rights-Based Approach
Involve Community
Targeting men
Entry points
Legislative Action
Local organizations
Power structures
Personal involment
Values vc. Practice
Bulding in sustainability
Caring for the individual
Gaining support through advocacy
The Projects

Engage local power structures, including faith-based organizations
Engaging local leaders and opinion makers and eliciting their support can provide access to a community that might otherwise be closed to outsiders. In Mauritania, local imams, who are highly regarded in the community and consulted on important issues, are extremely influential. Early on, project directors sought the participation of religious leaders known to be progressive and flexible.In Maasai communities of Kenya, a top priority was allaying the fears and misconceptions of male opinion leaders about ending the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting. Their advice was also solicited on how to bring about change.In Colombia, working with a Catholic organization on reproductive health issues at first seemed counterproductive and risky. However, in a region with a strong Catholic tradition, a project centred around culture and rights could not distance itself from religious convictions and practices. Once project personnel came to terms with the fact that people understand and manage their sexuality from a set of cultural norms with deep religious roots, what at first seemed like a risk became an opportunity. Common groundthe inherent dignity of human beingswas established as the base from which two groups with different perspectives, UNFPA and a Catholic institution, could work together.


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