An Alternative Space for Discussion of Human Rights Issues in Ethiopia: Experiences from ECSEC
AbstractThe political changes taking place in Ethiopia since 1 99 1 have led to the proliferation of the debate on human rigl'tts. The period after 1 99 1 has also been characterized by the emergence of new actors, notably non-government organizations (NGOs) some of which have made human rights the focus of their activities. The experiences of one of these NGOs
in Ethiopia, that is Eneweyay Civic and Social Education Centre (ECSEC) and its educational programme in human rights are the focus of this paper. ECSEC maintained that the overaI1 objective of its programme of education is to create awareness on human rights and democracy among the Ethiopian peoples, and to create an environment in which the people could better exercise their rights. Accordingly, the assessment based on focus group discussions and individual interviews of the participants indicated that the educational programme of ECSEC's contributed to the organizations objective in terms of creating awareness in human rights among the participants in the programme. Secondly, this article argues that the creation of an alternative space for discussion of human rights issues could be one of the major achievements of the programme ECSEC conducted. The analyses in this paper demonstrates that despite the challenges posed by the uncertainty surrounding the continuity of the programme and the political context of human rights violations a programme of education based on an innovative and effective method could contribute to the expansion of the space for discussing human rights at the societal level, as part and parcel of attempts to institutionalise human rights in the context of contemporary political developments in Ethiopia and beyond.
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