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South Asian Regional Level Training of Trainers (ToT) on Promoting Religious Co-existence and Minority Rights in South Asia

A four days (30th June to 3rd July) South Asian Regional level Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop on "Promoting Religious Co-existence and Minority Rights in South Asia" was organized at Hotel Himalaya, Lalitpur. This workshop was organized by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), Bangladesh with the coordination from International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination (IMADR), Sri Lanka and in close coordination with Jagaran Nepal from the host country.   Total 24 Participants of this training were from Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This workshop was held from 30th of June 2019 and it concluded on 3rd July 2019. The workshop was facilitated by two experts from India- Mr. D.J. Ravindran and Ms. Kalpalata Dutta. Mr. Ravindran is a renowned and veteran lawyer/ human rights activist from India. He has worked as Legal officer for Asia for International Commission of Jurists. He was the founder of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum- Asia) .Ms. Kalpalata Dutta is an expert on International Human Rights law and Education. She has more than a decade experience in developing learning programs and resources for human rights activists, lawyers, academics and professionals. . 

The primary objectives of the workshop were to strengthen the capacity of the participant activists/human rights defenders in using the human rights framework to monitor human rights violations of the religious minorities to develop advocacy plans for mitigating intolerance to promote religious coexistence among communities. 

Jagaran Nepal is one of the implementing partners and the consortium member of this project.     . Out of total 24 participants, 6 Nepali participants included renowned, advocate, Human\Women Rights activist, Researcher, psychiatrist and educationalist were involved. The workshop was centered around discussing how religion and religious norms can come in the way of empowerment. Especially in the context of Nepal, this is an issue that needs more attention. The Chhaupadi tradition is still very much prevalent in Nepal, more so in the rural areas. A productive discussion was held on how these kinds of traditions are holding us back in our fight for equality and empowerment and how we should mitigate it. The workshop was conducted in different sessions. There were individual sessions on activities such as ‘Interview Exercise’, ‘Collection of Information’, ‘Application of Standards for Defying Violations’, ‘Evidence Gathering’ etc. The training focused on participants’ capacity building on fact-finding, early warning and documentation on issues of religious intolerance. 

On the closing session of the training, ex-hon. Member of National Human Right commission and one of Nepal’s most renowned human rights experts Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, Honble, ex-addressed the audience at the workshop. In his speech, he spoke about how the citizens of Nepal have begun to feel more assured about their rights since 2046 B.S. While they do feel assured to some extent, he conveyed that there is still a long way to go in terms of completely reassuring them about the status of human rights in the present context. 

Founder Chairperson of Jagaran Nepal, Ms. Sharmila Karki emphasized on the religious hurdles and obstacles that obstruct empowerment and equality in our society. She further added that traditions like Chhaupadi has to be eradicated which has been claiming lives of women and girls in the affected areas. She committed that Jagaran Nepal will be continuously working for effective enforcement of existing laws criminalizing Chhaupadi and wide spreading education programmes in affected areas. This will help women and girls to ensure their rights it to be free from gender discrimination and gender-based violence which are guaranteed under the constitution of Nepal and international human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).