Students take a trip to learn about their rights

Some schools take fieldtrips to theme parks. Others, the zoo.

Mercy Dabor and her classmates went to a theatrical performance Wednesday. She is 14-years-old and goes to school in Ngleshi Amanfrom, a town about 30 kilometres west of Accra, Ghana.

Mercy Dabor

Mercy Dabor (front right) and her classmates attending an event on gender-based violence in schools and rural communities, hosted by Ghana’s Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC).

Now, even though a play is a typical outing for a school group, the topic of the show was not. At least not in the past.

She and the other students followed the blaring music from their campus to the centre of the town. What they found was an event on gender-based violence in schools and rural communities, hosted by Ghana’s Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC).

HRAC staff put on skits for the crowd on topics such as: teen pregnancy, rape, and domestic abuse.

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HRAC staff performing a skit Wednesday on domestic abuse and teen pregnancy.

Tall standing tents were setup around the performance area by the people in the town. The children made a dash for the remaining chairs under each tent. They all wanted the best view of the show. The other chairs were already filled with men and women from the town anxiously awaiting the start of the performances. Ngleshi Amanfrom’s priests and the chief’s wife were also in attendance.

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The crowd burst into hysterics at multiple parts of each skit. Everyone was engaged. And after each performance, the HRAC staff let people in the crowd ask questions about each topic.

“What happens if I cheat on my husband and then he beats me?” one woman asked. “Is he allowed to do that because I was unfaithful?”

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HRAC staff answered the women’s questions by letting them know their rights. How they can and cannot be treated.

But, despite their best efforts, HRAC had obvious obstacles to overcome in answering such questions. In places like Ngleshi Amanfrom, cultural norms conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many cases, it is culturally acceptable for women to be treated unequally to men. Getting women to demand equality is not just about informing people of their rights, but changing cultural tendencies.

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HRAC’s Wendy Abbey talking to the audience about human rights.

Mercy stood in a circle with her girlfriends after the show.

“I learned a lot today,” Mercy said with a smile. “I am happy we came.”

What were once contentious issues not long ago in towns like Ngleshi Amanfrom are now discussed openly and freely amongst all demographics and both sexes.

And, although this field trip wasn’t to a theme park or zoo, everyone there seemed to have just as much fun.

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Ghana’s Human Rights Advocacy Centre is based is a non-partisan research and advocacy organization based Accra. They provide a free legal clinic that is open to everyone with a human rights claim. Since they opened in 2008, they have helped about 700 people with legal issues.

To visit their website, go to: hracghana.org.

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