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Monday, December 31, 2012

One Fine Day In The House Of Transparency

Alexdra Naslin is going to share her thoughts and reflections about another exciting day in the Grundtvig project. If you ask who is Alexdra Naslin; she was one of the participants we had a chance to meet through the Grundtvig project. Alexdra is half Russian and half  Moldavian, she is currently living in Poland. She has been working in government offices, NGOs, political parties and mass media focusing on the sphere of communication and project management.

 Today we had an intensive and fruitful day which opened up new horizons and provided us with new information, knowledge and tools for our future projects. In the first part of the day we had a meeting with Mr. Hans van Oel, the head of the Integration department at the municipality of The Hague. He presented us the situation and the current trends of the immigration in the city of The Hague which has a population of 50% coming from a migrant descent and the municipal policies on integration of foreigners. 

We had a chance to discuss with Mr. Hans van Oel, the problematic issues related to immigration, integration, citizenship, anti-discrimination policies and multiculturalism. Mr. van Oel also gave us an excursion in the municipality building. It is a remarkable building all white and has glass ceilings. As we were told the light during day keeps changing in the building, especially in rainy days you can see the rain coming down so beautifully if you just tilt your head up, towards to the ceiling. The transparent walls of the building is symbolizing the openness and transparency of the local government, and offers a big open space for meeting of citizens, for cultural events, exhibitions and press conferences. 

In the second part of the day we participated in the project cycle management training organized by UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) by Pierre Hegay, the program coordinator. We learned about the Logical Framework Approach in Project Management and stages of project management with the corresponding methods. Working in small groups we applied this project management framework and the tools to the proposed case of economic development in Africa. Through this case study we developed our knowledge and skills in problem analysis ("problem tree analysis") and identification of project strategy, stakeholder analysis and management of stakeholder's expectations and the objectives analysis ("objective tree analysis"). 

It was a day of learning and exploring, the first part of the day focused on the policy making, implementation, practical problems in The Hague and second part was on logical frameworks on how to tackle these social/ economical issues we face within the society. There is always a room to learn more.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Grundtvig, Lifelong Learning Programme - Change Yourself, Change The Experience

This year's Grundtvig workshop hosted 23 participants in November from all over Europe with diverse backgrounds.  7 days of training, workshops, discussion and study visits fostered dialogue between different cultures, provided necessary skills to tackle problems associated with minority communities in Europe and flourished new friendships. This time again, as GHRD we would like to give voice to those who were with us during the Grundtvig week because as every individual participated in the project, they made this experience very special for all of us.

Melissa Chen was one of the many interesting participants GHRD had during the Grundtvig week. Melissa is  originally from Costa Rica, she is currently living in Germany. She studied Economy and International Business Management in Costa Rica and Germany. She worked during almost 5 years for the pharmaceutical companies Schering and Bayer in both countries. Her interest for minority rights comes from her passion to travel and explore different cultures. She is also interested in social entrepreneurship. She likes dancing and learning languages.

It is the 4th day of our workshop at GHRD in The Hague.  INBOX Training and FORUM Theatre are in the agenda.  Every day has been so full of interesting presentations, lectures, workshops and visits to organizations.  But today was without doubt the most active and dynamic day of all. 

 Together with the Dutch organization Critical Mass, we started our program with an activity to deepen into stereotypes.  People are constantly labelled and labelling others in the society and the aim of this workshop was to reflect on this.  Through this activity we experienced the feeling of being categorized and labelled with different attributes as everyone received his and her own “new attribute”.  The interesting part was that we did not know what our own new label was.  Thus all of us had to deal with the reactions of other people with their own views and prejudices towards the “new us”.  By putting yourself into the shoes of others it is easier not only to identify but also reflect on the effects of prejudice and the importance to avoid it.

The afternoon program was at least as interesting as we participated together in forum theatre activities conducted by a Colombian performing artist.  I enjoyed the games and the short improvised plays especially because they were fun and we had the opportunity to interact with each other.  We had both one on one and group exchanges where we were able to share personal experiences and get to know each other better in a very interactive way.  By the end of the activities we were tired but very happy.  I am glad and thankful for this opportunity to learn and share with this amazing group of people with the most diverse backgrounds.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How can we inspire and educate young people in human rights?

One answer to that we experienced during the Youth in Action training course “When social meet rights” in Montijo, Portugal, 15th-22nd of October 2012.

During a six day long training course we were educated in the different components of the European Social Charter through a special learning method, namely non-formal education. It was something totally new for us and at the beginning we were a bit sceptical since we are used to a more theoretical and formal education model. Although the outcome of these non-formal education sessions, regarding the knowledge about the social rights, were far more comprehensive than we thought. We felt more emotionally and personally connected to the issues we discussed since everyone was actively participating in the different exercises through different workshops and role plays. It was a new kind of a concrete and practical learning process rather than the theoretical one we are used to.

There were also a lot of teambuilding games and team work exercises which built up a sort of trust among us participants and had a great positive influence on the group dynamic.

We think this method of non-formal education could successively be used in a broader sense to engage and involve youth in the human rights area, since the method of non-formal education are easier to relate to when someone don’t have the theoretical knowledge. And even if you have the theoretical knowledge the non-formal education gives you a multi-dimensional approach to the subject and makes you reflect a lot during the learning process. We learned a lot about social rights and also had a lot of fun! J

Jana Lopusna and Isabel Duchén

The Quest for identity: What does it mean to be a Muslim?

In the last few weeks when you opened the newspaper or turned on the television, you could see Muslims on the streets protesting with anger and disappointment against the so called anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims”. In several countries all over the world protests occurred; some ended with violence some remained as peaceful demonstrations. At the center of this was the portrayal of Muslims as a raving crowd destroying everything on their way in the name of their religion. Nowadays it is difficult to see both sides of the coin when innocent people get killed and the respect for religious diversity crushed under the brutality of a singular identity. An identity that projected upon Muslim goes hand in hand with violence. This identity is creating a heavy burden to carry for Muslims who believe these violent acts are undeniably immoral and cannot be justified by religious beliefs or teachings. Nevertheless, Muslims are put on a trial as a scoundrel group containing single identity of fundamentalists. Can we trust a religious based analysis of people to understand the humanity behind 2,1 billion Muslims living in the world today?

In Pakistan, during the Day of Love for the Prophet demonstrations against “Innocence of Muslims” escalated into violent acts. Mardan, known as the city of hospitality, experienced a horrific incident on 21th of September. A group of Muslim men attacked a 80 years old church compound and burned it to the ground. Eye witnesses said the angry mob event tried to prevent fire fighters to enter the church compound. Another incident happened in Bangladesh, where Buddhist villages and temples were attacked by Muslims after a member of the Buddhist community placed an offensive post on Facebook about the Quran. In the end the scene was similar; the houses were torched, shops were vandalized, and temples were burnt down. International media emphasized the role of Muslims as being the destroyers of religious tolerance to the detriment of those with different beliefs.

According to Samuel P. Huntington the violence in contemporary global society ignites from a “clash of civilizations” connected to the antagonisms between collective identities. Among the collective identities, Muslim identity has become synonymous with words like terrorism, intolerance, inequality and violence. However any presumption based on this singular identity when attempting to understand the political opinions and social judgment of people who happen to be a Muslim cannot be accurate. This singular identity has a commanding voice therefore it does not leave any room for plural identities, who display different social behaviors and have different values, to exist. Using religion to justify violent acts should be condemned but also being a Muslim should not come with a baggage when people believe and say: “Yeah, that’s how the Muslims are”.

Photo by: The Express Tribune

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dealing with human trafficking in Nepal: Awareness and Education

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery is a complex problem of many countries all around the world, whether developing or developed ones. The phenomenon is usually caused by a combination of factors. Especially, when looking at the countries of South-Eastern Asia, such as Nepal, one can observe communities struggling with poverty, illiteracy, absence of any awareness about human trafficking, various forms of discrimination and consequent social exclusion.  Furthermore defective governmental policies to prevent and punish human trafficking as well as insufficient victim protection coupled with gaps in effective law enforcement and corruption omnipresent at all level of public administration make combat against human trafficking and modern slavery to seem a mission impossible.

One the one hand, the state is bound by a number of international and regional instruments imposing measures to be taken and regulating cooperation in order to tackle human trafficking. In that way, the government shall adopt policies and develop strategies to comply with its international obligations. On the other hand, the executive is struggling to carry out its own commitments. Deficiencies in pursuance of anti-trafficking programs lack unified approach and are often caused by shabby and chaotic coordination among actors involved. Competency between programs of public bodies and NGOs and among various NGO initiatives does more harm than good. Even a well-drafted action plan remains a long shot when it is spoilt by corrupted civil servants and policemen who are themselves involved in the trade with human beings. In the end shortage of financial means in one of the poorest countries in the world ‘lends its helping hand’ to the problem.

However, even if the legal framework was excellent and governmental efforts were well-managed, any such action would work without corresponding grassroots initiatives. Human trafficking is featured by a hidden nature. Similarly, dynamics of current flows of migration, which goes through unregulated channels together with, lack of reliable research data on human trafficking folds the problem in the mist. Above all, many victims place themselves into the hands of traffickers voluntarily. Fooled by promises of greener pastures, lured by false perspectives of employment abroad and a better life, poor people submit themselves to traffickers absent any knowledge about real purposes and practices of the traffickers. More and more often, families pressed by economic uneasiness sell their own children persuaded that such step would provide them with means to nourish the rest of the family. At the same time they posses no knowledge about real forthcoming fate of their sons and daughters.

After that, instead of promising employment opportunity, Nepali children end up as sex workers in Indian brothels or servants in wealthy residences in Middle East. Physically and mentally exploited, tortured and stigmatized, they are not only rejected a normal childhood, but also their future perspectives are gone with the wind.

Because of all that, it is crucial to adopt a grassroots approach to both prevention of human trafficking and rehabilitation of victims. NGO and governmental initiatives, action plans and programs shall be aimed at raising awareness, counselling and providing information among endangered communities predominantly in remote areas without sufficient media coverage and high rate of illiteracy. Education, training and awareness-raising play a key role in preventing a heinous crime of human trafficking and slavery. Civil society shall actively participate by providing support for educational activities, qualification and skills-gaining with the view to enable persons´ access to secure labour market. In that regard, it is important to ensure that employment services are provided on equal basis. Similarly, rural development, support for local business is a must once we want to put malignant phenomenon of modern slavery to the end. Of a cardinal importance is also promotion of non-discrimination, equality, solidarity and social inclusion of all communities within Nepal.

In the very end, only coherent and joint action at all levels of the society, underlined by mutual understanding, respect, and solidarity and will to search for a meaningful solution can bring Nepal and other countries out of the vicious spiral of slavery.

Jana Lopusna, LL.M.

Film Night - What Does it Mean To Be a Refugee?

Róża Kowalczyk had many questions in her mind after the documentary night during Youth and Action week; she agreed to put them on paper and share it with rest of us. Let us tell you a bit more about her. Róża is from Poland studying International Relations in Asia and Pacific Ocean Region. She was the coordinator of International Research Fundation UMCS project last year on Migration in Europe. In her free time Róża likes to cook, read, paraglide and learn Chinese. Read her ideas about what it means to be a refugee:

Tuesday 21th of August 2012

Who are refugees? What have forced them to leave their fatherlands? And finally – who needs them? Answers to all those questions we could have find watching a documentary during Youth in Action week; an upcoming documentary which is focusing on the issues of refugees in The Netherlands.

Whole film is divides into three main parties. Each of them shows different part of refugees’ life. Each of main characters tells their own history. Sometimes documentary films focus more on a general problem, what makes them less realistic and convincing. This time we could be as close to people’s problems as it is possible. It is not a story about refugees as a group or a potential threat to the society as some believe, it is a film about people who had to leave their usual lives to… live.

A new life, however safe, is very different from the dreams. Can you imagine starting all over again? Education, employment history, friendships… Can you imagine world when suddenly, day by day- you mean nothing. You’re no one, and no one likes you, or even understands; nor helps, nor has a usual conversation. You had to runaway and try to save your life just to become an outsider. You do your best to star over your life: learn language, graduate (one more time!), look for job but you might always stay as an alien.

So maybe sometimes we should check what's happening on the ‘other side'; open our minds and do some research. There might no mainstream media existing that will tell you all the truth about what it is like to live under a dictatorship, but maybe you can find out the truth from your neighbour who escaped from it and ended up living in your country as a refugee. And there is no book which can teach you a country's culture, the mentality as a foreign friend can. Finally, there is no one who can call himself human if he/she forbids others to live happily. That's all this film reminds us. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who Will Save The World Now?

Let's build our world again...Are we competitors working against each other or is the world's future in the hand of cooperation and mutual understanding? These questions were in the Youth's mind when a tall guy with a witty look in his eyes said: "You cannot build your factory there!" The words we heard from Aron van Wiljk during the Perspectivity Game, a game that conveyed the message of sustainable growth. 

Aron is another Dutch participant of the Youth in Action. If you ask Aron what he liked the most about the Youth in Action and GHRD projects he would say: "The people, they are all so kind and nice!" Aron is 19 years old, currently he is studying pedagogical youth care work.  However in the future he would like to continue his education in the field of economics, management or law. Aron is in the Youth Council of Delft (JOUWDELFT), he is actively participating and conducting several projects such as a research about safety among youngsters who are looking for homes or organising a Youth Conference in November. Aron likes to read, learn, discuss politics, religion and philosophy. He also likes to play sports and enjoy biking when the weather is niceLet see what are his thoughts on this interesting game, the Perspectivity Game.
Monday 20th of August 2012

The Perspectivity Game

This game was about the way we see our future – perspective.  We split up the group and play with teams of two youngsters. facilitator from the Perspectivity Network gave us a the rules of the game. We started the game by not knowing what the numbers on the board meant. Every team was representing a country that wanted to expand their economy by building factories. Some factories gave pollution and others don’t, but the non-pollution factory was far more expensive than the factory that caused pollution. All the pollution in the world caused disasters which hit certain factories (hit by number of the dice). After a few rounds we could discuss with the other teams about what to do against the disasters. Our group decided to built non-pollution factories. After that decision we weren’t hit by any environmental crisis. The goal of the game was to revenue points (every factory is counted as one point). Competing with the other teams and the other half of the group.  The other group didn’t made a change and continued building factories that caused pollution, they got hit by several crisis, they didn’t managed to develop their own country and by that, the whole world.
Conclusion of this game? It’s a fun game, communication works, we’re all sharing this world so we should solve problems, together, at the same time.

The Perceptivity game makes you change the way you see, how to behave or act in any kind of development. The game is made by a non-profit organization and known all over the world. Even several of big companies and universities played it. If you are interested in the game check out the website for more information

A Little Stop for a Piece of Whipped Cream Heaven

When we look back to Youth in Action week,  there are tons of memories printed on Justyna's photos thanks to her passion for  photography. Let us introduce her. Justyna Waruszewska, 23 year old  graduate student from Poland. She is doing her master's in management .At the moment Justyna is getting for her one year adventure in France to continue her studies there. Justyna takes pleasure in travelling,  meeting new cultures and learning languages. She speaks English, French and German, also her dedication to pick up Dutch words as soon as she step foot in Netherlands was laudable. This is her experience during Youth in Action, enjoy!

Saturday August 18, 2012

I have already spent in Delft four wonderful days. I like this town because of the atmosphere and interesting architecture. People in Netherlands are friendly, cheerful and open. I have a feeling that I could even live in this lovely town.  

Yesterday, I visited The Hague. We have spent there almost all day and we were sightseeing the city centre. I had the opportunity to see the Queen's Palace and municipality building - Stadhuis. At the lunch time we went to the Will's pancake house. The owner of the restaurant welcomed us very warmly, he recommended the speciality of this place, which are called poffertjes with strawberries and whipped cream. It tasted very nice and it was the first chance to taste traditional Dutch food.

Today I attended the presentation of the Turkish participants about racism and xenophobia. Those two topics were very interesting for me, because there are not really that often a subject of debates in Poland. 

During this Youth In Action project I have participated in presentation about my country - Poland and I have seen other national groups' presentations about their own countries. I also took part in many other activities. Tomorrow our polish group will have a presentation about age discrimination. It's going to be an interesting day.

Are you curious about this Dutch delicacy, poffertjes? Here is the recipe; how to make pancake puffs:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enjoy the Moment: A Dutch Experience

Youth in Action ended yesterday with full of memories to reminiscence and promises made to meet again with new friends from all over Europe. The week of learning, fun and travelling is over however there is still more to find out. Are you wondering how the week of the Youth was? You can follow us on GHRD blog for the upcoming days and read about what happens when people from different parts of Europe meet to challenge ignorance, prejudices and human rights violations and find out cultural differences and what makes everyone connected.

The first impression of Daniel Pietrzak is a person with integrity and intelligence. Daniel is from Poland, he is 23 years old. His main goal is to finish two masters he is studying at the moment and in the future work for the EU parliament or follow an academic career and continue with his PhD. This is not Daniel's first youth project, he also participated another Youth in Action programme in Turkey. Daniel says the projects are a start to become a world citizen and broaden one's perspective of life.

Friday August 17, 2012

There is a time during every youth exchange/project/foreign trip when the place that was mysteriously new at our arrival is not like that anymore. It changes very rapidly. Even tough I have spent only two nights in Delft, I actually feel like home here. I already know the way to the city center, I enjoy walking by the watercourses, I know at what hour I should return to Kruithuise and make it till the entrance gate is closed and many more.

First part of the day was filled with games and energizers. However the thing that I especially like to do is talking and interacting with other participants. Therefore I had a lot of fun after dinner, when we were advocating on various topics during the practical workshop which focused on the stereotypes and discrimination. Also, I enjoyed the simulation game which was about negotiating with government officials to have sex education in schools. I was part of a NGO and my goal was to convince and inform officials that the sex education is necessary and the government should finance it. The discussion showed me the importance of incentives and dialogue. I felt like I can be an active citizen and make changes in my community.

As every evening in Delft, I've decided to go for a nice, short walk around the city. It actually ended after four hours - because still so many things here draw my attention, surprise or amaze me. One of them is, obviously, bicycles. I live in Poland, quite a big country actually, and I haven't seen there as many bikes in my entire life, as I'm seeing in Delft city center. It is awesome! Also, I made many photos of old, rusty bicycles attached to bridges or parked in bizarre positions around the city. Another thing that comes to my mind when I think about Delft after those two days is atmosphere. People are enjoying the moment here. In the evenings they are just sitting in cafes, talking with friends and riding their bicycles, simply, having a nice time after a tiring day at work. That's the thing that we still have to learn in Poland, enjoy the moment.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 days of Youth In Action: Equality is a European Quality

Youth in Action is continuing with intriguing events and eye-opening discussions. Let us introduce one of the Youth participating this 8 days of training. Her name is Abigail Tjhay, she is a 17 year old ambitious high school student with a lot of on her plate and many different interests. She is in the Youth Council of Delft (JouwDelft), her responsibility  is to advise Municipality of Delft regarding issues of Youth. When she is not busy with her advising  job she likes to play the guitar and sing in a youth band called “Three-eyed Monsters''. Abigail said that her dream is to study psychology. She is already making changes in her community by organizing events for the gay youth of Delft to raise awareness about the discrimination they face in their daily lives. She will do the opening for the "7 days of Youth In Action: Equality is a European Quality" and share her ideas about what the Youth is up to. 

Thursday August 16, 2012

“How do you pronounce your name?” the one and only thing I dislike about international exchanges is that you have to try and memorize names. It’s a good thing there are such things as name games, that 1) help you remind people’s names and 2) are a lot of fun.
Once we knew each other’s names (well, not all names, memorizing names and faces is a talent, not a skill), we learned about each other’s interests. It was clear that, despite our cultural differences, we had a lot in common.  Once we got past the introductions, we finally got to the good part: a workshop on sexual diversity.

A member of Global Alliance for LGBT Education, Marinus Schouten, dropped by to give a workshop about LGBT rights in societies and for education. He talked about what it means to be gay, bi or transgender and he also told us about the history of homosexuality. Then he taught us an important lesson about identity.
            “Imagine if the Prime Minister passed a law, that states that something that is a part of you, is punishable. What would you do?”
Many participants said they would try to protest or at least ask why they passed that law. Some said they would try to make a compromise with the Prime Minister and some others claimed they would cry. Marinus then asked us how this law would make us feel. Negative adjectives like angry, sad, scared and even depressed were mentioned. In short; no one should be made to feel like they have to hide who they are, as it would have a negative impact on the way they feel about themselves and the world around them.

After Marinus left, I continued the discussion on homosexual marriage with a couple of other participants. One of them told us she once heard the following phrase “Claiming that someone else’s same-sex marriage is against your religion, is like being angry with someone who’s eating a donut, because you’re on a diet.” which seems like a really good point to me. You see, your identity is nobody’s business but your own. No one should ever be allowed to pass a law that would oppress your right to be you.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Sweet Donation from C’est Bon Bon for GHRD Project

In the mid of the economic crisis of 2009, we opened C’est Bon Bon ­– a luxury confectionary store. Well, it took a lot of guts to begin this undertaking. We created a beautiful store from scratch with a loyal customer base. We united the best confectioners and pastry bakers from around The Hague in one store. Our store offers a great variety of goodies. Besides delicious bonbons, we also sell pastries, diverse chocolate truffles and luxurious Portuguese wine.


When we opened the store, we (my colleague Mukti Ramautarsing and I) realised that we had the responsibility towards society. In this sense, we were on a mission to find a good cause – a good cause that we supported a full 100%. Luckily, we did not have to search for a long time, because Mukti’s sister worked for GHRD. Of all GHRD’s projects, we believed that the Back to School Bali project suited us the most. Our customers agreed with us, given the amount of donations!


In the mean time, Mukti ensured that we had a collection box with the text of the project on our store’s counter. I had agreed with Mukti that we would also contribute to the project, in addition to our customers’ donation. In the end, our customers contributed around 190 Euros, which we raised by 60 Euros to make an end donation of 250 Euros. We hope that with this money more children will go back to school so that they can fulfill their dreams through a proper education!!

Two weeks ago, we contacted GHRD with the message that we had raised a nice amount of money for them. The response of GHRD was super! They were extremely happy with the amount. Subsequent to our conversation we scheduled an appointment to hand over the money.

On July 19th 2012, two employees from GHRD came to our store to present us a lovely certificate, which thanks our customers and us for our contribution. Of course, we will give the certificate an honourable spot in our store.

GHRD has won our hearts with their warm response. We hope that we are able to donate another lovely amount to them the next time.
Written by Sen Raumatar, Owner of C’est Bon Bon.
Besides running his luxury confectionary store, he is also consultant for TNT Post in The Hague.

Visit C’est Bon Bon here:
Nathaliegang 128
2719 CS Zoetermeer
The Netherlands

Monday, July 16, 2012

URGENT APPEAL: Protect the Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh: Implement the Peace Accord now!


To: the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Dhaka, the Office of the Prime Minister, London and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals are joining forces to urge the Government of Bangladesh to keep its promise to protect its indigenous peoples, and implement the CHT Peace Accord before the next general elections in 2014.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed in Bangladesh in 1997 to promote peace and to protect its indigenous population. Today, almost 15 years later, it remains unfulfilled and violence against the indigenous peoples has continued.

Bangladesh has ratified numerous international human rights treaties and it is also the largest provider of UN Peacekeepers in the world. Despite this, it continues to violate the rights of minorities and its indigenous peoples. The indigenous people, known as Jumma in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), have been under attack for over 35 years, ever since the Government brought in large numbers of Bengali settlers onto their ancestral land. Influential settlers – supported by the military who are heavily deployed in the region – have been attacking the indigenous peoples who have lost their lands at an alarming rate and have endured endless human rights violations ever since.

The protection of indigenous peoples and the implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord was one of the key election pledges of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. Unfortunately, at the end of her mandate, it remains unfulfilled.

We note with concern how violence against indigenous communities in the CHT has been escalating in recent months.

We are disturbed that this Government has rather taken regressive steps that work against the essence of the Accord, including publicly denying that there is an indigenous population in Bangladesh, refusal of giving constitutional recognition to indigenous groups and also recently demanding its district officials to take action against the celebration of World Indigenous Day.

Therefore, we urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to take immediate and urgent action to fulfill her election promise and fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord within this tenure, to ensure the protection of Jumma lives, land, identity and culture.

In particular:
• Dismantle all temporary military camps in the CHT and demilitarize the region according to the Accord.

• Investigate and publicise all allegations of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples by the security forces.

• Solve the land disputes fairly; amend the Land Dispute Settlement Commission Act of 2001 according to the spirit of the Accord.

• Give constitutional recognition to the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.
With the elections coming up in Bangladesh, there is a great fear that the CHT Peace Accord will remain unimplemented and that the situation will only worsen in the future, threatening the peace and existence of the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh!

Our call will be delivered to Governments in three countries on World Indigenous Day, August 9, in Dhaka, London and the Netherlands.

Yours Sincerely,

Global Human Rights Defence (The Netherlands)

Jumma Peoples Network (UK)

Kapaeeng Foundation (Bangladesh)

Hana Shams Ahmed, writer and activist

Join our shared efforts in protecting the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Take action today and sign our petition here!]

JUMMA PEOPLES NETWORK UK                                 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


On a chilly February day, GHRD met with a Jumma refugee who left the Chittagong Hill Tracts in a quest to create international support and awareness for the plight of his indigenous people: the Jumma. "If we can get strong backing from the European politicians, then we can add more pressure to the Bangladeshi Government to implement the peace accord and to claim our rights”, he says quietly.

While his family is still in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, he is the only one of his tribe who has left the village. Some of his relatives’ lands are now occupied by the army camps.

Here, he shares his memories of how his life changed when the army came to his village when he was a child.

A beautiful sky

“Above my village, when I grew up you could see the sky, there was no pollution. You could see the insects spinning, it was beautiful. I could see the army barracks from my home. There was no electricity for the indigenous people, but I could see the army barracks had their lights on even at night. The army came to my village when I was about four or five years old. Everybody was in panic. They thought they can kill us anytime. They would tell the villagers they needed porters; whether they were elderly or sick or not, they would force them to carry their belongings. They would ask the villagers if they knew the whereabouts of Shanti Bahini (“peace force” / resistance movement) if they said they didn't know, they would beat them”.

 Under the army’s wing

“We built the army camps. As a boy, at 10 years old, I had to work as a porter, and I didn’t get paid. I had to cut their grass, supply the bamboo thatch and the wood to build the army camps. We provided their food, fruits, vegetables; we had to give them our animals, with minimum pay. I am the witness: I was there.

There was no freedom of movement; the army had the right to stop us at any time, we felt like captives. We grew up with fear of the Bengali army at all times: even when we were at home, we felt fear as we heard the sound of army boots passing by our house. The Bengali people who came to the village, they could move freely. We could not even buy matches; we had to get permission from the army to do that. When we would buy things, we had to report. We could not buy more than two matches. They claimed if we bought three, we must be giving one to the Shanti Bahini. We know the army is there to protect the settlers, but we have to live there.

The problem started from '75 onward, when they started bringing the illegal settlers and the armies. The illegal settlers see us as their enemy, and we see them as our occupying enemy as well. The army used to ask the village people to entertain them; young people had to dance and perform in the army camp, we were bound to do that. They sent letters to the village leaders who would inform the young people they had to go and perform and sing or dance for the army, whether it was rain or flood or whatever to make them happy. I went too, of course. They could do anything they wanted because they were the holders of power. There were incidents where army personnel abused the women, but not all”.

Assalumu Alaikum

“One night I witnessed how they tortured my people. The army teams led by 2nd Lieutenant Musharaf Hussain, from 1st Bengal battalion/regiment, a young man who belonged to the Muslim religion, had taught the young villagers to say Assalamu alaikum (Muslim greeting) This night, the army patrolled by and because some of my villagers, young people, forgot to say Assalamu alaikum, the officer became angry. Then the army brought them in front of our house. They started kicking, punching and beating them with their belts. They also beat them with the knives of their guns and they started bleeding. The villagers were crying and told them to ask pardon; the soldier stepped on their heads, like they were footballs. I was the witness to all this, together with other children. And this army officer, the Musharaf Hussain, I heard he got a promotion”.

We just want our freedom

 I went to boarding school, and when I came back, my village was destroyed. They had accused my village of harbouring the Shanti Bahini, so they destroyed it. Not only our village, several others too. The army beat them and put all the villagers into a kind of refugee camp.

 This was in the 1980s, but today the situation is the same. If there was no problem now, why are there no foreigners allowed into the Chittagong Hill Tracts? The main problem is the presence of the army. If they move from there, the problems will be solved with the settlers. Because with the army presence, the illegal settlers have the power. In the media they say that several hundred camps have been removed, but that's not true; they just shift to other places. We don't fight, but they claim there is a conflict. The government and army create the conflict. We want to live there as other people are living. We don't want to see the army. We just want our freedom”.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

GHRD welcomes a Study Visit from the Exeter European Law Society

A group of fourteen highly-motivated and committed young people from the Exeter European Law Society visited GHRD on June 12, 2012 with the aim to learn more about the human rights issues through a workshop at GHRD. After being welcomed and familiarized with the principles, goals and work of the organisation by Anchelita Gowri, they were introduced to the situation of indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh by Tove Stenqvist, as well as, human rights violations against minorities in Pakistan presented by Julia de Blaauw.

After that, they had the opportunity to watch the emotional and moving documentary SOLD - A Child Trafficked that kicked off an anti-human trafficking campaign in Nepal in 2010 carried out under the auspices of Maiti Nepal in cooperation with GHRD.
Students were surprised by the large scale of the problem of human trafficking and the high number of women being trafficked in Nepal on a daily basis. The documentary encouraged questions and a debate concerning the reasons behind human trafficking in Nepal, especially with regard to the political, social and economic situation in the country, as well as the course of the anti-trafficking campaign, its effectiveness and the results. More importantly, students showed high interest in screening the documentary at their campus and home university.

In the end, Shafferan Sonneveld asked the students to share creative ideas on how to advocate for human rights. The students responded eagerly and suggested spreading information to peers, following social network pages, engaging in discussions and campaigns, organising street dramas and flash mobs and raising awareness through articles, blogs and petitions. 

GHRD would like to thank the students for their attention and participation!

See the SOLD Facebook page here:

Written by: Jana Lopusna
Photo by: Serena Sorrenti