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Manon, training human rights defenders to also care for themselves

Photo by Daniella van Bergen

Manon is one of Justice and Peace’s resilience initiative trainers. She tells us about her experience during the numerous trainings she participated to and organised.

“But above all, we provide them with a safe space where they can meet other defenders and feel that they do not stand alone in their fight. They come to realise that no matter where they are, where they work, they all face the same challenges as human rights defenders.”

“They defend their rights and we support their activism. It is such an emotional and fulfilling work!”

“It is always a challenge to facilitate sessions on security topics. Each group is very different, each human rights defender I meet carries a very personal and many times difficult story related to his or her struggle. I train people who are facing constant levels of risks, and suffer threats, harassment, have been arrested, abused, tortured, because their fight for human rights is perceived as adverse to governments or companies’ interests.”

“Most of my trainees are psychologically vulnerable. With my team, we guide them through the steps to carry out risk assessments, we equip them to develop their own security strategies to protect from attacks, surveillance, prosecutions, arrests, etc. But it is also a mutual learning process: they have a huge experience from which we learn. This sharing process is very valuable to me and the trainees.”

“I hear a lot of my trainees saying that being in The Hague for the duration of the training is a relief.”

“They finally can sleep, feel free to walk on the street, relieve the pressure. They also have time during the trainings to meditate and reflect upon their work. Yesterday, during a session on motivation and well-being, one of my trainees said: ”we always work, but we never think about our work, we don’t have time for this and this is a good space to learn how to take care of ourselves”.”

“Many of them highlight that being in the trainings in The Hague makes them feel like they’re part of a network of solidarity they can rely upon: we all become part of a family, beyond borders.”

Read more about the security trainings for HRDs.