New Delhi: ActionAid Association (AAA) successfully hosted the National Conclave of Human Rights Defenders 2023 on 17th and 18th December at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, Delhi, bringing together a diverse group of human rights defenders and activists from various corners of the country. The event served as a significant platform to celebrate the victories and acknowledge the challenges faced by community-based Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).
The opening session on December 17th provided the context, with Dr. Esther Mariaselvam, Associate Director of AAA, delivering an impactful opening speech emphasizing the pivotal role of HRDs and the potential of solidarity in breaking societal boundaries. KT Suresh, the Senior National Lead, expressed gratitude for those challenging societal norms and highlighted the need to maintain the spirit of inquiry among HRDs, reflecting on the four-year history of the conclave.
The plenary sessions thoroughly explored reflections from HRD conventions held in different states and regions. Participants shared valuable insights into the challenges faced, lessons learned and opportunities encountered throughout the year. “The discussions showcased the commitment of HRDs across states and regions to human rights causes, emphasizing the significance of collaboration and support in addressing challenges on a national scale,” said Dr. Esther Mariaselvam.
A dedicated session focused on the reflections and learnings from HRDs across different states and regions, shedding light on the challenges faced and the resilience demonstrated in addressing human rights, governance, and social justice issues. The discussions emphasized the importance of collaboration to build people’s agency and protagonism and the role that civil society organizations (CSOs) and social movements can play and collaborate.
Special addresses by Zakia Soman, Founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, and Tanveer Kazi, Associate Director at AAA, highlighted the impact of majoritarianism on vulnerable communities and spoke about ways in which concerns of vulnerable communities could be addressed in 2024, emphasizing empathy, inclusivity and collaboration.
On the second day, discussion centered on developing campaign plans and learning from each other. HRDs organized themselves across states and regions into clusters and worked out plans to create a comprehensive strategy for pro-people initiatives, which would be called the People’s Agenda. These plans showcased a holistic approach, aiming to understand the multifaceted challenges faced by different communities and regions, drafting a People’s Agenda document that will emerge from a collaborative and inclusive round of discussions and hearings.
In the concluding session, the recognition and awards of Human Rights Defenders were a significant highlight of the event. Twenty-two HRDs from diverse regions were felicitated for their outstanding work. The HRDs were felicitated by Vrinda Grover, lawyer, researcher, and human rights and women’s rights activist, Agnes Kharshiing, human rights and women’s rights activist and President of Civil Society Women’s Organization, A.S. Kumari Vijaykumar, social activist and Chairperson of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women and Dr Rajnish Kumar, a prominent Gandhian and peace activist. Speaking on occasion, the guests honored the HRDs for their contributions, emphasizing the importance of the rule of law, grassroots-level knowledge, and collective efforts in the pursuit of justice.
The National Conclave of Human Rights Defenders concluded with a renewed commitment to advocacy and activism for the betterment of the people. Participants found the proceedings of both days invigorating, enabling them to return with renewed dedication to their invaluable work and re-affirming the need to foster collaborations for a more just and equitable society.
About ActionAid Association:
ActionAid Association is an organization working for social and ecological justice. ActionAid has been engaged with the most marginalized communities in India since 1972. In 2006, the ActionAid Association was registered as an Indian organization governed by an independent General Assembly and a Governing Board. Together with supporters, communities, institutions, and governments, we strive for equality, fraternity, and liberty for all. ActionAid Association works in 24 states and two union territories with several partners and allied organizations. ActionAid Association is part of a global federation and a full affiliate of ActionAid International, which has a presence in over 40 countries worldwide.