Public awareness and education

  • Legislation should establish and fund public awareness measures and trainings on harmful practices and women’s human rights aimed at all sectors including health care, education, judicial system, social services and the community at large.
  • Legislation should require training on women’s human rights and harmful practices and their consequences for all religious, customary, community and tribal leaders.
  • Legislation should require that state-registered religious officials receive training on women’s human rights and harmful practices and their consequences during their vocational trainings.
  • Legislation should require that health professionals in all areas, especially those working in maternity, obstetrics, gynecology and sexual health, receive training on women’s human rights and harmful practices, including their role in preventing and not practicing harmful practices, identifying  victims of harmful practices and sensitively providing services to those victims.
  • Legislation should require and provide for training teachers at the primary, secondary and higher education levels on women’s human rights and harmful practices. Training should cover teachers’ role in creating awareness among their students and the community regarding particular harmful practices, as well as identifying and sensitively providing or referring services to victims.

Public awareness and education are essential to changing social and cultural norms which perpetuate harmful practices. Training religious and community leaders who are influential in the society is also necessary to incorporate them in the process of changing cultural beliefs and practices. Women and girls should be supported in their efforts to empower themselves and demand respect for their human rights. In addition, all members of society should be made aware of the negative consequences of harmful practices. It should be clarified that these harmful practices impact not just the women and girls but the larger community as well.  Public awareness should focus on preventing further harm to the victims of harmful practices as well as discussions about the overall importance of equality and human rights for all, including women and girls.

Creating public awareness regarding the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is specifically mandated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003):

Article 42: Making the Convention known to adults and children
“States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.”

Experts also recommend:
In line with the CRC Committee’s proposal, States should develop a comprehensive strategy for disseminating the knowledge of the CRC throughout society, including providing children with information of sources of help and advice.  Furthermore, the Committee puts special emphasis on incorporating learning about the CRC and human rights in general into the school curriculum at all stages.  All those working with and for children are required to know the CRC and the important role of media in disseminating information on the CRC.

It is imperative for State agencies to cooperate with non-state actors including NGOs and CBOs in raising awareness in the communities.  State agencies may be viewed with suspicion by the communities, and local NGOs and CBOs which have deep knowledge about the communities and are trusted by the people may be the most effective catalysts for change. (See:  No More Excuses, p. 26)

Promising Practice:  Turkey – “Raising Awareness and Increasing Capacity of Religious Leaders” Project

In an effort to incorporate religious leaders in the fight against “honour” crimes, the Education Group at Amnesty International Turkey created a Women’s Human Rights Education project called “Raising Awareness and Increasing Capacity of Religious Leaders.”  Project developers determined that given the fact that ninety percent of the Turkish population is Muslim, religious leaders have a strong influence in the society and have access to large numbers and varied groups of individuals. The Project focused on training staff of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, which in turn provides required training, credits and certifications for religious officials throughout the country. These religious leaders then influence the public at large with the trainings they receive. The Project implemented trainings on national and international human rights standards against discrimination and violence against women, instruments to prevent violence against women, raising awareness of women’s human rights and their role in creating the necessary improvements of cultural, social and economic rights for women.

(See:  Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p.13; Leyla Pervizat, Tackling Honour in the Aftermath with a Good Practice, Expert Paper, p.9. (Hereinafter Pervizat Expert Paper))

Promising Practice – Italy’s Law No. 7/2006 on Female Genital Mutilation, Article 4

Article 4 of Italy’s Law No. 7/2006 on Female Genital Mutilation (in Italian), mandates training for health professionals as well as the creation and adoption of regulations to that end. The law also provides 2.5 million euros for the implementation of the required training.

(See:  Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p. 14)

Promising Practice – United Kingdom – Multi-agency Practice Guidelines: Handling Cases of Forced Marriage

The United Kingdom’s Forced Marriage Unit, in collaboration with other agencies created the Multi-agency Practice Guidelines: Handling Cases of Forced Marriage. The Guidelines set forth a multi-agency response to addressing forced marriage and provides advice and support for practitioners who work with children and adults in order to protect them from forced marriage.  The Guidelines present information that is necessary for all agencies as well as specialized information for particular sectors which may most often have first contact with victims of forced marriage, including health professionals, teachers and staff at schools, colleges and universities, police officers, children and adult social services, and housing authorities.