A highly innovative and transformative project where young refugees who have suffered from human rights abuses participate in workshops specially designed to empower them and improve their mental health through learning about rights guaranteed to them under international law.
These workshops have already been run in an extremely disadvantaged neighbourhood on the outskirts of Mexico City by Benjamin Santamaria, who for years has taught human rights to school and street children in Mexico, and to young Canadian Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals at summer camps. When Ben discussed teaching Human Rights in Mexico with Dr. Federico Allodi, the idea came up to evaluate the teaching programme to ascertain the health and behavioural outcomes. This resulted in a conjoint project in Mexico in 2011 and 2012. The project results have been most encouraging and urged them to repeat the programme elsewhere.
This project promotes human rights (HRs) education as
- a Human Right in itself and an indispensable means to fulfil Article 26 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”
- a primary form of mental health care to relieve distress and traumas related to HRs abuses
- a primary form of HRs abuse prevention by empowering victims to identify and report abuses as well as by deterring victims from turning into violators themselves through raising awareness and understanding of HRs
The project is multidimensional, combining humanitarian, developmental and scientific aims
A foremost and immediate aim is humanitarian. This project will help to improve the mental health and psychological conditions of young refugees. As already demonstrated by the project in Mexico, HRs educational programmes are effective in improving the mental health and behaviour of traumatised young people.
Another related aim is developmental. Bearing in mind that development cannot take place without HRs being promoted and enforced, the project will set up the conditions for the HRs teaching programme to be repeated over time and replicated in other afflicted areas. Assisted by our expert and experienced local partners, the project leader will set up a professional training programme with the specific purpose to enable local teachers to repeat and replicate the HRs educational programme beyond the project’s duration and initial geographical scope.
Another core aim of the project is to provide international organisations and public national authorities with strong evidence-based research on the beneficial impacts that HRs education can have on traumatised young people. The project will include a scientific investigation that is expected to further confirm earlier research findings from the previous project in Mexico that HRs teachings can lead to improvements in the mental health of HRs abuse victims and in the prevention of HRs abuses in general. Such evidence will be later used to prompt international organisations and public national authorities to establish HRs teaching programmes as instrumental means to ensure the harmonious development of future multi-ethnic societies.
The scientific study will also serve as an evaluation tool for monitoring the implementation of the project, meaning that the final report on the project will include a research study with further value beyond a quantitative summary of how funding was invested and the number of activities that occurred. It will show qualitatively for experts and practitioners alike what the impact was for the children reached.
Federico (MD, FRCP, MRCPsych.) will oversee the project’s implementation, evaluation, data collection, analysis and reports. He has three decades of experience working with Palestinian victims of violence and five decades with victims of state or not state violence and torture around the world.
Ahmed (PhD) will assist Benjamin Santamaria for the implementation of the project in the field, and coordinate cooperation with local partners: Dignity and Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP).