United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA’s) state of the world population 2008 report which was yesterday launched by the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Haja Musu Kandeh at the Kingtom Bank Complex, stresses on Culture and Human Rights.
The theme of the report is ‘Reaching common grounds-culture, gender and human rights’ portrays culture as an integral part of people’s life and sees the need to integrate it with development policies and programs.
More so, as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the report reflects human rights as universal values.
The report calls for culturally sensitive approach to development due to its essentiality to Human Rights in general and Women’s Right in particular.
The UNFPA 2008 Report suggests that partners can create effective strategies to promote human rights, such as women empowerment and gender equality to deter human rights abuses like female genital mutilation or cutting.
UNFPA’s Resident Representative, Barnabas Yisa defined culture as “the way we think, act and believe- the totality of our way of life.”
He revealed that “cultural traditions and beliefs are often stronger than laws. We have seen this in our work to end female genital mutilation or cutting and child marriage. In many countries, these practices are illegal-they are against the law and yet they exist because they are deeply rooted within the culture,” he said.
“Human Rights are everybody’s work and being culturally sensitive and understanding the context is everybody’s business,” Yisa said.
He however noted that cultural sensitivity and engagement do not mean acceptance of harmful traditional practices, or a free pass of human rights abuses.
“Understanding cultural realities,” he said, “can reveal the most effective ways to challenge harmful practices and promote human rights.”
One of the main messages of this report, Yisa said, “is that change cannot be imposed from the outside to be lasing; change must come from within,” he maintained.
The UNFPA Representative stressed that culture is created by people and people can change culture. “Communities have to look at their cultural values and practices and determine whether they impede or promote the realization of human rights” he said.
Head of Human Rights Commission, Jamesina King articulated the synergies between culture gender and human rights.
Director of Culture, Foday Jalloh postulated the significance of culture and also spoke about the proposed ‘Culture Policy’.
Human Rights Commissioner, Yasmine Jusu-Sheriff made a speech on how she was touched by personal experience on the pervasion of female cultural practices which she once adored.