Beyond Equality: A Manual for Human Rights Defenders

Sat, May 30, 2015


Beyond Equality - Final Cover DesignBeyond Equality: A Manual for Human Rights Defenders

2015/Women’s Learning Partnership

Mahnaz Afkhami & Ann Eisenberg

Published in English; available online at www.learningpartnership.org/beyond-equality-manual-human-rights-defenders

A quick review of recent news headlines reveals the world’s growing detachment from finding solutions to human rights issues and, increasingly, shows that states are using human rights as a political bludgeon to chastise their opponents. The result is that where once human rights served as a near- universal benchmark for social progress, today their value and relevance is frequently challenged by young idealists and old tyrants alike.

Since 9/11, human rights have been marginalized at multiple levels of governance, from local to global. Since then, the trend toward more robust language and policies grounded in the human rights framework has given way to an international emphasis on promoting democracy as an end in itself. Security has become the counterpoint to freedom, with the former supplanting the latter in the unbounded “war on terror.” And to some extent, right now some of the terrorists are winning, in as much as they have convinced millions that their atavistic, tyrannical, and violent regimes are expressions of devout religion. More than a decade later, we are witnessing the harm caused by excessive security measures such as the U.S.’s Patriot Act, and the repeated inadequacy of holding national and local elections, to combat violent extremism that poses as religious orthodoxy.

In conversations over the past few years, WLP’s partners and colleagues have expressed their deep dismay over the global human rights situation and the air of helplessness in the human rights advocacy community. Today, there is a great need to revisit the fundamentals of universal human rights and examine what answers they provide to the rapidly evolving technological, political, and economic conditions around the world.

This manual is meant to serve as a tool for reigniting conversations about the relevance of human rights to the struggle for women’s freedom and advancement. We hope it will introduce new generations of activists to the UN International Bill of Human Rights and other human rights mechanisms. For those already well acquainted with international human rights law, the manual’s workshop sessions can provide a forum for frank conversation about the contradictions and conflicts that arise in promoting a human rights agenda and can help advocates develop new strategies for addressing them.



About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Books Display

Leading to Action: A Political Participation Handbook for WomenWomen State & SocietyToward A Compassionate SocietyLeading to ChoicesSafe and SecureMuslim Women and the Politics of ParticipationClaiming Our RightsFaith and FreedomWomen and the Law in IranWomen in ExileIn the Eye of the Storm coverWomen in Exile (Spanish version)Women in Exile (Turkish version)IRANHandbookENGLeading To Choices Multimedia Pack
"The conditions women have in common outrank and outvalue those that set them apart." - Faith and Freedom

"Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign for the Reform of Discriminatory Laws is an extraordinary phenomenon. It is democratic, nonhierarchical, open, and evolving in a polity that is none of those things." - Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality: The Inside Story, Foreword

"Activism women realize that awareness of rights is the first step in gaining a political voice and the political power to gain rights." - Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation

"We must be bold and creative, our feet firmly grounded in the realities that surround us, but our gaze aimed at the lofty possibilities that our advancements in science and technology promise and that our growth as a global society is only beginning to comprehend." - Toward A Compassionate Society
“A manual that, unlike traditional human rights law, reconceives rights as also relevant in religious and cultural spheres, not just in the public sphere.” – Claiming Our Rights, Madhavi Sunder, The Yale Law Journal

“A gripping combination of serious scholarship and popularising” – Faith and Freedom, MESA Bulletin

“A sad, lovely, horrifying, heroic book.”– Women In Exile, Women’s Review of Books

Quotables – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom