SESSION C: Citizens claiming their rights.

How to engage communities in realizing the right to health and education

  • Organisers: APEFE, G3W-M3M, KIYO, Plan International Belgium, ULB Coopération
  • Language of the session: French and English (with simultaneous translation)
  • Moderator: Fanny Polet, G3W-M3M – KIYO – Solidagro (consortium)

Different obstacles on the social, economic and cultural fronts, caused by a lack of political, institutional or community engagement, exacerbate the vulnerable situation of at-risk groups (women and girls, children, young people, people with handicaps…).

Social change, at an individual, community and institutional level, is a catalyst which allows them to exercise their rights, improve their living conditions and play an active role in society on an equal footing. Greater independence of communities, strong social movements and involvement at a political level are all essential in shifting the power balance in favour of vulnerable groups. The link between social organisations and communities and the groups they are made up of is crucial in targeting beneficiaries’ real needs.

Social change, starting with a rights-based approach, can be achieved at several different levels:

  • The level of rights holders by allowing them to speak out, defend and exercise their rights.
  • The level of duty bearers (Government, institutions and services), by ensuring these rights are being respected.
  • The level of society (communities, organised civil society), by creating an environment in which rights holders can exercise their rights.

Civil society organisations must take their social responsibility seriously by creating opportunities (social, cultural economic…) for vulnerable people. Among the rights needed to be defended, the right to health and education are two pillars which are inextricably linked. Healthcare services, just as much as an inclusive education, play a key role in allowing all people to play an active role in society.

Education is not confined to what happens within the school walls. Health education consists of a range of information, education and communication activities which aims to develop knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, behaviour and skills in individuals or a community in a way that is beneficial to health. One of the starting points in the pedagogical process of health education is recognising the knowledge that exists already, present but latent, within the population.

This panel will tackle the question of finding out how, through formal education, educating people can improve health outcomes by involving the end beneficiaries, especially the groups who are not traditionally involved in organising formal healthcare structures.

The panel will also attempt to demonstrate how a strong social movement needs to exist to bring about social change and that, to that end, an empowerment strategy based on a rights-based approach can produce positive results whilst requiring mobilisation and collaboration among the stakeholders, beneficiaries, communities, sector players, authorities…

Three speakers will be sharing their experiences and successes in mobilising communities in the direction of social and political change to exercise their rights to education and health


  • Empowerment and participation: educating people: an effective tool in health rights

Billy Mwangaza, Facilitator and President of the Dynamic Youth Movement, Étoile du Sud (Kinshasa, DR Congo)

Étoile du Sud is a Conglese NGO which encompasses a network of healthcare committees in several provinces of Congo in partnership with ULB-Coopération, G3W-M3M and KIYO. These committees organise the population and provide health education, prevention and address the problems with healthcare in the neighbouring living environments.

Education and awareness-raising are the first important steps in creating a strong movement: “Often what prevents the responsible and consistent participation of young people in managing our country and humanity as a whole is the lack of correct information, the lack of training and the absence of a community spirit in problem-solving.”  (Billy Mwangaza)

In DR Congo, Étoile du Sud offers up an alternative to fatalistic thinking in teaching by using an empowerment strategy founded on a rights-based approach. Firstly, the presentation will look specifically at how the organisation works with this rights-based approach to health. Then it will discuss a specific project that shows how volunteers from Étoile du Sud contribute towards empowering communities by accounting for their specific needs with regard to the complexity of problems that communities are dealing with.

  • Promoting the creation of a protective environment in communities with a view to seeing children’s rights better respected, and especially girls’ rights
    Ali Oumarou
    , Project Coordinator, Plan International Niger

The project “Pour une meilleure protection des filles au Niger” (For the better protection of girls in Niger) is a project from Plan International Belgium and Niger which aims to combat child marriage and its consequences, especially on health. In doing so it aims to improve girls’ standing within society by equipping them with the means to value themselves properly and gain respect within their communities. This objective is achieved by mobilising communities and especially by establishing cooperation between the worlds of health and education.

The presentation will mainly be geared towards holistic approaches involving agents of change and community care structures. These approaches play a part in the ownership of beneficiaries (primarily young girls aged between 13 and 18 who either left school or never attended in the first place) of strategies aimed at bolstering their ability to have confidence in themselves and achieve economic empowerment.

  • The role of Community Centres in promoting inclusive education and health for persons with disabilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: The experience of BASR
    Mohammed Owaineh, Community Education Supervisor, Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR)

Since the 1980s, the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR) has implemented a strategy that centred on utilising the resources available in the community. By forming local committees in areas where access to services is limited due to various political, economic and social reasons, BASR has supported the creation of community centres which function as focal points for people with disabilities in these communities.

The presentation will explain BASR’s role in empowering local committees within the targeted communities to support the creation of a strong and active disability movement, which in turn advocates for access to basic services (such as health, education, livelihood and participation) and community accountability towards disability issues as well as promoting equality.

It will also highlight how BASR’s involvement in the local community helped to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and awareness raising in Palestine on disability as part of a rights based approach to empower people with disabilities and community mobilization. It will show how education is a tool for inclusive sustainable local development and how the community centres work to promote this idea and enhance people’s awareness on their right to inclusive education.

Finally, it will expand on BASR’s role in building the capacities of local stakeholders (local authorities, community centres) to provide adequate education and training services for people with disabilities and improve their access to appropriate comprehensive rehabilitation services and to get them included in the regular school system.