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Honouring the human rights legacy of Max Yalden

Throughout the years, Equitas has been fortunate to garner the support of various foundations and funds to assist in its mission to advance equality, social justice, and respect for human dignity around the world. One that has been supporting Equitas for several years is the Maxwell Yalden Fund.

Max Yalden was a member of Equitas’ Honorary Board and a distinguished Canadian human rights defender. Mr. Yalden was the second Commissioner of Official Languages in Canada from 1977 to 1984, before going on to serve as the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission from 1987 to 1996. Mr. Yalden was then elected twice to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, serving in this role from 1996 to 2004. Throughout his career, Mr. Yalden fought for the protection and promotion of human rights. His dedication throughout many years of service has made him an inspiration for future generations of human rights educators and defenders. After his passing, his son, Robert, a longstanding member and former chair of Equitas’s board, and Robert’s spouse, Pearl Eliadis, a former chair of Equitas’s board and a member of its Honorary Board, created a bursary fund in honour of the late Max Yalden.

The Maxwell Yalden Fund has generously provided support to participants of Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP), an internationally-recognized human rights education program that has brought together hundreds of human rights defenders from across the world for 40 years. Participants who have been selected for the Maxwell Yalden Bursary have often worked in their respective country’s Human Rights Commission where they developed relevant skills and knowledge to better protect, promote, and defend human rights in a sustainable manner. As Mr. Yalden was a former Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, supporting participants who work with their country’s Human Rights Commissions is one way that the Fund honours the legacy of Mr. Yalden and his commitment to defending human rights across the world.

While the IHRTP was postponed in 2021 due to public health restrictions that were put in place in response to the pandemic, the Fund has continued to support Equitas by offering bursaries to participants of Global Rights Connection. Global Rights Connection is a 10-week online human rights training program that was developed to exist in parallel with the IHRTP. The first edition of Global Rights Connection in 2021 had 50 participants from 27 different countries – all of whom are human rights defenders and educators.

Three participants, each working in human rights law,  received funding for their participation in the program. The financial support offered by organizations such as the Maxwell Yalden Fund is especially valuable because it helps human rights defenders to overcome financial barriers that may limit opportunities to engage in formative training. For instance, factors such as registration fees or costs of transportation may prevent human rights defenders from participating in human rights training programs. Moreover, foundations and funds can support changes being made on the ground, across the globe, in areas that speak to their issues of focus, mission, and values.

Global Rights Connection Recipients of the Max Yalden Bursary

Cheikh Dieng

Cheikh Dieng is the President of Association Nationale pour la Prévention et le Développement.

He fights against discrimination and stigmatization in Senegal which prevents people from exercising their human rights, specifically their socio-economic and cultural rights. Cheikh works with young people and various marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQI community, by advocating for equal healthcare rights with religious leaders, journalists, bloggers, and influencers. With guidance from Global Rights Connection facilitators, Cheikh has developed a plan to employ new techniques and approaches he has learned throughout the program and implement them into his organization. 

One of the key elements of Cheikh’s Individual Plan, developed during the training program, is to lead a 3-day training session with members of his organization that would focus on understanding the participatory approach – an approach he learned further about during Global Rights Connection. This will effectively support the promotion and protection of human rights at a community level. With his work, Cheikh hopes to address issues such as access to civil status, violence against girls and women, lack of employment opportunities for women, the right to education and healthcare, and more. Without the support from the Fund, Cheikh would not have been able to participate in Global Rights Connection, let alone implement new activities and exercises to achieve sustainable changes and development in his community.  

Cheikh said:

My individual plan entitled ‘Exploring the Pillars of the Participatory Approach in Human Rights Education’ will be implemented to build the capacity of my organization’s members to use the participatory approach in human rights education.

Zakia Msangi

Zakia Msangi is a lawyer and Program Officer of Networking and Coalition Building at Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF-TZ).

Zakia works with women and children to empower them and defend their rights when they have been violated. Zakia also focuses on the protection of women and children from gender-based violence in Tanzania. Without the financial support of the Max Yalden Fund, Zakia would not have been able to acquire further advocacy and educational tools through Global Rights Connection to implement into her organization.  

More specifically, with the Maxwell Yalden Bursary, Zakia was able to seize the opportunity to create and transfer new educational activities to her staff members and the GBV MKUKI Coalition, a network that is coordinated by WiLDAF-TZ that caters to over 200 human rights organizations working to end Gender-Based Violence (GBV) across Tanzania.

Zakia said:

I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Global Rights Connection for the wonderful human rights lessons. I have increased my understanding and I will be glad to share with others in order to decrease the number of gender-based violence in Tanzania […] I am excited to receive the bursary from Mr. Yalden, as I didn’t incur any financial costs for the duration of [Global Rights Connection]. I couldn’t do this without the bursary and for that, I am grateful.

Diabaté Brahima

Diabaté Brahima works with Mouvement Burkinabè des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), Equitas’ implementing partner in Burkina Faso for the Advancing Equality through Human Rights Education program.

With Equitas’ support through this program, the MBDHP works to increase women and girls’ empowerment to advance gender equality by addressing social norms and deconstructing gender stereotypes. Diabaté works with organizations at all levels, from international human rights defense organizations to national public authorities, and with local communities, through a program called “La boutique de droits.” The objective of his work and the “boutique de droits” project is to promote and defend human rights by sharing information on complaints about human rights violations and infringements. This is a high-impact service, as the individuals that Diabaté primarily works with come from low-income communities that often include individuals with low literacy rates, women living in rural areas, widows, orphans, and vulnerable children. Supporting these community members is extremely important to Diabaté and his mission to promote and protect the human rights of all.

To promote human rights in communities that lack access to basic rights and services, Diabaté uses the tools that he has developed throughout Global Rights Connection to deliver training sessions to individuals and partnering organizations to advance their mission to disseminate and strengthen human rights through public dialogue. With the support of the Maxwell Yalden Fund, Diabaté was able to participate in Global Rights Connection and develop his own training program to strengthen communities across Burkina Faso.   

Diabaté said:

Even though they are rights-holders, they don’t know how to access their rights for a decent life, the promoters of socio-cultural rights present ways to them for understanding and accessing their rights.

Human rights training programs, such as the International Human Rights Training Program and Global Rights Connection, engage human rights defenders in the development of their skills and networks. Foundations and funds like the one set up in honor of Max Yalden play an invaluable role in helping to reduce barriers for changemakers seeking to participate in these learning experiences, that expand their capacity to make a meaningful impact in their field. Equitas, our partner organizations, and human rights educators deeply appreciate that Max Yalden’s legacy involves supporting dedicated individuals along their journeys to promote and protect human rights.