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Promoting inclusive development in Peru through human rights education



This story is part of the series We are human rights changemakers to celebrate Equitas’ 50th anniversary. All through 2017, we invite you to discover stories of 50 inspiring human rights changemakers. These are but a few of the hundreds who have changed lives around the world through human rights education with Equitas’ support.



Jorge Samanez is a specialist in pedagogy. Early in his career, he was interested in alternative teaching methods, as opposed to traditional education, which he compared to a “military cartel” in his country because of its strict practices. Aware of social inequality throughout Peru, human rights became his favorite subject and he worked in various social circles: including schools, non-governmental organizations, and the Peruvian government. 

His interest in alternative pedagogy and human rights led him to Montreal in 2004 to participate in Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP). Jorge was open to Equitas’ participatory methods, and this training confirmed his interest in education based on the lived experiences of participants. The IHRTP motivated Jorge to implement more collective and accessible activities, by addressing issues such as equality, peace and dignity. 

“Investing in education is crucial for development.” In Jorge’s opinion, the government’s vision of development is often limited to the construction of infrastructure. This short-term approach leaves deeper but essential changes by the wayside, such as inclusive development, changing attitudes that promote inequality, and human rights awareness. These changes necessarily require more time and are not as immediately visible as the construction of hospitals, schools or other infrastructure projects. 

Talking about human rights is not always easy, whether it is about equality between men and women, land rights, or access to land. “Several groups are against it, including the more conservative wing of the Church and the army. Once a Bishop walked in on a workshop in a remote village to contradict our position on women’s rights.” 

Prevent human rights violations

From 1980 to 2000, Peru experienced a major armed conflict. Nearly 25,000 people lost their lives and Indigenous people were the most affected. There were many human rights violations: torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and others. “At that time, I joined an NGO specialized in human rights education and we travelled to remote areas of the country to inform the population about their civil and political rights and to limit abuses. Since the conflict, we have been promoting a culture of peace in order to prevent such atrocities from happening again.” 

To accomplish this goal, Jorge caters to all spheres of society: teachers, the military, police, Indigenous populations, feminist groups, and academics. For this human rights educator, knowing one’s rights means protection, particularly for society’s most vulnerable. 

“Some women we met were not aware that there are standards that prevent their husbands from being violent towards them. This information then becomes a form of protection. 

During the past years, Jorge has worked on the development of the Peruvian National Human Rights Education Plan, in collaboration with a committee under the Directorate General for Human Rights, which is part of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. This plan aims to make human rights mandatory in the national curriculum. Jorge has developed the actions, terms, and the objectives of the plan in collaboration with civil society. The national policy has been adopted by the Peruvian government in order to promote the culture of human rights at all levels of education (primary, secondary, civil, military, university). He says, “Education in human rights will become systematic in the country if the Plan actually put into practice.” 

“Promoting peace and universal rights allows us to develop rules for living in communities.” 

Jorge’s real goal for Peru: for it to be a society where the rights of all are respected for the preservation of peace and sustainable development. Human rights education is his tool to achieve this vision. Jorge is currently working as Manager of United Nations portfolio with the Agencia peruana de cooperación internacional (Peruvian International Cooperation Agency), making sure to incorporate an educational component in the various programs and contingency plans being implemented by the international community in Peru. 

 * The opinions in this piece are Jorge Samanez’s own as a human rights educator and do not necessarily reflect the views of his office or institution. 

Manager, United Nations portfolio, Agencia peruana de cooperación internacional, Peru
Participant, Equitas International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP), 2004 

Story written by Paule Portugais-Poirier, intern writerEquitas. 

Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program is undertaken in part with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

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