EU pledges support for rights of minorities

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Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and three other civil society organisations are set to benefit from the P6,7 million pledge support from the European Union Instrument For Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

The pledge, which is geared towards activities meant for the protection of human rights of minority groups in the country, was launched yesterday at Sanitas Garden in Gaborone. The three other organisations to receive the funding include Stepping Stones, Minority Rights Group International and Ngamiland Council of Non- Governmental Organisations (NCONGO).

According to head of EU delegation to Botswana, Ambassador Alexander Baum, these organisations were selected to provide nationwide human rights education; supporting the rights of the child and strengthening child protection mechanisms at all levels; advocacy and promotion of broad and inclusive political and social dialogue on minority rights, the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons and the death penalty.

Baum explained that protection of human rights is at the core of European Union foreign policy. He said that the funding allocated in this programme confirms EU’s strong belief in the importance of civil society for a dynamic and tolerant society and the need to keep the discussion on human rights alive at all times.

“Human right can never be taken for granted in any society. They have to be won everyday and knowing one’s rights is necessary for claiming them. By this programme the EU wishes to contribute to that necessary dialogue,” he said.

BONELA’s executive director, Cindy Kelemi, said they have selected five designated rural communities where they will implement these programme. These communities include Palapye, Mochudi, Lobatse, Mahalapye and Gantsi. Kelemi said the places have been selected because they are rural communities where there are evident but often unchecked cases of human rights violations, especially against minority groups. She said that this is justified from BONELA Legal AID Programme, which has documented an increase in the number of human rights violation cases and recommendations contained in the Botswana Human Rights periodic review of 2010.  Kelemi indicated that they are targeting adult women facing gender-based violence, LGBTI persons and children and youth under 18 years.

The programme, which will run for 24 months, will address among others, discrimination and violence against women, discrimination and deep prejudice against gays, lesbians and sex workers and marginalised sexual minorities.

Kelemi said they intend to form allies with traditional leaders (dikgosi) through customary kgotla settings, councillors, Members of Parliament, the police and religious entities for the provision of nation-wide human rights education and gender-based violence against women and children.

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