On October 11, 25 students from Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh studying law and gender studies came together for a Speak Truth to Power workshop on human rights and domestic violence.
Over a course of 3 hours, the students learned about the history of the human rights movement and the international human rights law framework, contemporary human rights issues, and Marina Pisklakova, a prominent Russian human rights defender who fights against domestic violence.
The day started off with students sharing their understanding of human rights, followed by a presentation on the history of the human rights movement, the international legal framework, and monitoring mechanisms. This included the students reading aloud and then discussing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Following this presentation, the students broke up into small groups and discussed contemporary human rights issues around the world. Each group was given a case study -- freedom of expression in Europe, torture in Guantanamo Bay, human trafficking and the fishing industry in Indonesia, and land rights and indigenous rights in Brazil -- that they read, discussed, and then presented to the entire class.
The second half of the workshop focused on domestic violence. The students first learned about the meaning of domestic violence before reading about the life and work of Marina Pisklakova. Marina Pisklakova is Russia's leading women's rights activist. In July 1993, Pisklakova founded a hot line for women in distress, later expanding her work to establish the first women’s crisis center in the country. Today her organisation, ANNA, operates 170 crisis centers across Russia and the former USSR. The students read an interview with Pisklakova conducted by Kerry Kennedy for her book Speak Truth to Power and discussed the problem of domestic violence in Russia and how to become an activist. They then wrote and presented personal reflections on domestic violence in Cambodia.
"I do not know other places where I will get this knowledge."
The students praised the training, many of them saying it was the first time they had learned about these issues. As students of gender studies the issue of domestic violence was very pertinent not only to their studies but to their experience of Cambodian society, with Marina Pisklakova proving an inspiring example of an ordinary citizen becoming a human rights defender and fighting for women's rights.
"The Speak Truth to Power curriculum on Marina Pisklakova was very helpful because I could learn from real examples and victims and learn about their solutions.”
Building on this success, the RFK Center and Pannasastra University are next looking to hold another Speak Truth to Power training for International Human Rights Day in December.