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EquiTalks 2022 – Elevating the voices of humans at the heart of defending human rights

On March 22, more than 200 people from 47 different countries attended the EquiTalks – Heart, Humanity and Defending Human Rights panel discussion to listen to Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and other panelists. Participants shared that they were tuning in from places as far-ranging as Nepal, India, France, Canada, Ghana, Haiti, Tunisia, Senegal, Afghanistan… the list goes on! This demonstrates the common aspiration to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing human rights defenders and how we can all take action.

The panel discussion was moderated by Jean Paul Enama, Cameroonian LGBTQI activist and former Equitas Global Rights Connection program participant. Jean Paul engaged with the panelists and helped to generate a dialogue around their experiences and perspectives on the current context of defending human rights.  The following panelists contributed to the conversation:

  • Cindy Blackstock, advocate for Indigenous children and family rights and Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
  • Aly Sanou, activist against human rights violations in Burkina Faso and Secretary General of the Movement Burkinabé des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP)
  • Hadeel Abu Soufeh, Jordanian disability rights advocate and consultant and trainer on accessibility and inclusion

The panelists discussed the values underpinning human rights and emphasized the importance of solidarity and engaging with one another on a human level. They also spoke of the discrimination and harassment human rights defenders face, especially those already experiencing stigma such as Indigenous rights defenders and LGBTQI rights defenders. Throughout the panel discussion, attendees also furthered the conversation by sharing questions and resources with one another in the chat.

“What gives me hope is actually seeing a generation of children growing up, learning about human rights, but more importantly, understanding how they can peacefully and respectfully stand up for human rights”

– Cindy Blackstock

New Ways of Listening!

Listening Lens Activity

Listening to one another with purpose and intention is a key aspect of building connected communities. The EquiTalks also included an activity which encouraged both panelists and participants to listen to the conversation taking place with a randomly assigned lens – such as power, authenticity, or invitation. Reflections on the conversation interpreted through these lenses were shared in the networking session following the panel.

For instance, Cindy Blackstock described her interpretation while listening to the conversation through the lens of invitation and called for people to listen for the invitation for solidarity and building inclusive movements and to stand up for the basic values underpinning human rights. As she said, intersecting rights movements are intersecting pieces of the human condition.”

Live Graphic Recording

During the panel discussion, Paul Messer, visual practitioner from Percolab, captured the ideas and themes discussed in real time so that participants could visually process key ideas emerging throughout discussion.

Networking Session: A space to connect with each other

Following the panel discussion, a virtual networking session was held for panelists, event participants, and Equitas team members to connect directly with one another. 60 people took part and shared their reflections and perspectives in break out rooms!

Watch the creation of the thought map here:

Resources to deepen the subject

Throughout the panel discussion, certain resources were generously shared in response to questions and comments which emerged from panelists and attendees. In case you’d like to access these and learn more, they are listed here:

Shared by Mary Lawlor:

Shared by Cindy Blackstock:

We hope that this year’s EquiTalks contributed to elevating the voices of diverse human rights defenders and strengthened participants’ will to engage in defending human rights. Stay tuned for the next EquiTalks which will take place in Fall 2022.

Thank you to our generous sponsors who made this event possible: