“Empowering a New Generation of Human Rights Defenders in the MENA region” (Tamkeen) is a project supervised by the Education and Dissemination of Human Rights Culture program of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and in partnership with the Réseau Euromed France (REF), and two of its members La Ligue de enseignement and Les Instants Vidéo, and technical support from the Human Rights Academy of Amnesty International.
The Tamkeen (empowerment) program aims to prepare a new generation of young human rights defenders and change-makers, who are individual activists or active members of civil society groups and organizations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Participants were equipped with basic knowledge revolving around human rights and the work of civil society, and provided with the opportunity to exchange ideas with experienced activists working in civil society and democracy promotion. Operating through direct meetings and dialogues, and field visits to influential organizations and institutions, participants acquired additional practical skills to support their work and human rights activism. Women represented 56% of the participants, as ensured by the program’s criteria, and 31% of participants represented ethnic and racial minorities and marginalized or oppressed groups. Towards the end of the program, the goal was for participants to implement a variety of local human rights initiatives concerned with the protection of human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of minorities and marginalized groups, and resistance to discriminatory policies, violence, and hatred.
Over the course of 24 months, 44 participants from 11 different countries, in two parallel groups, embarked on a participatory self-learning journey, consisting of five gradual stages, during which the participants moved from basic theoretical knowledge and human rights frameworks to the planning and preparation stages for participatory human rights initiatives, followed by implementation stages and challenges, and evaluation processes to ensure sustainability and effectiveness. Participants received several specialized trainings and participated in three intensive workshops between the Tunisian capital and Marseille, in which they held 18 meetings with active members and experts in the human rights fields of advocacy, media campaigns, planning, and budgeting. Participants also visited organizations, cultural centers, and civic institutions that have impactful and effective participatory initiatives in addition to online training programs, many virtual meetings, and self-education programs.
On 10 December 2022, Tamkeen’s closing event in Tunis showcased sixteen local human rights initiatives from ten countries, representing the most important outputs of this training program. An array of issues were addressed by the initiatives, such as: defending the right to freedom of expression, freedom of art, independence of the media, the defense of women's rights and the rights of marginalized groups, and the protection of human rights defenders.
A self-learning journey that initiates participants with fundamental theoretical knowledge, then with analysis and planning tools, taking them to the implementation stage, and culminating with evaluation and follow-up.
The initiatives covered an array of topics, including women's rights; the rights of minorities and marginalized groups; freedom of opinion, expression and art; media freedom; and the protection of human rights defenders.