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Naaz @ the UN: Exploring Human Rights in Geneva with Edmund Rice International Training

From the 22nd of June to the 6th of July, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the Edmund Rice International Human Rights and Advocacy Training in Geneva, Switzerland.

When I first found out about this opportunity, I was awestruck. To be given this opportunity to go to the heart of the Human Rights world was something that I had only dreamt of. As I got closer to my departure, the reality and excitement really began to sink in and I could not wait to meet my fellow participants and begin learning.

Travelling to Geneva was my first experience of travelling alone, and whilst the entire experience was extremely daunting, I knew that the experience that was awaiting me was going to be life-changing. Once I landed in Geneva, I was met by Brother Terry, as well as my fellow participants from Ghana and South Africa. From the airport, we got on the local public transport and made our way through the streets of Geneva. We were then met by Brother Brian, who drove us to our hotel to get settled.

My first experience of meeting the entire group of participants was amazing. The group was so welcoming and I immediately felt at home with them. We bonded over our shared work within the Edmund Rice Network. It was amazing to meet so many incredible individuals from across the world, from countries like Ghana, Kenya, Indonesia, Peru, the United States, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia. All of my fellow participants were a part of the global Edmund Rice Network or their partner networks.

The main aim of the training was to educate members of the Edmund Rice Network on the various United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms. This includes the Universal Periodic Review, the Treaty Body System and the Special Procedures. We also engaged with how civil society organisations, like Justice Desk Africa, can work to engage with these systems and how we can use these mechanisms to make sustainable change within our communities and countries.

Over the course of the training we were exposed to incredible people and organisations, including people from The United Nations Environment Program, the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, a Member of the Australian Permanent Mission and a UN representative for the Special Procedures. Alongside this, we were also able to visit the actual United Nations offices. Walking into the Palais des Nations was a true “pinch me” moment and the entire experience still feels surreal to me. This was something that I could have only dreamt about and now it was becoming a reality. I was filled with so many emotions as I walked into the Human Rights Council - a room that I had only previously seen online. To see the true nature of the sessions was fascinating. The time constraints of States to get important information across and the global politics on the floor of the council was a true sight to see. I was lucky enough to sit on numerous sessions including Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons and a Panel Discussion on the Rights of Women.

After each day, it was amazing to sit around with my fellow participants and share a meal, where we had in-depth discussions about what we had learnt, but also where we had the opportunity to sit and create lasting friendships and memories. A true highlight of the trip was Brother Tino providing us with numerous flavours of ice cream each night as we finished our dinner.

As someone who craves information and loves to learn, this trip taught me so much. I learnt so much about how we can collectively work to make our communities and countries better places. I also learnt so much about myself, and how I am able to effect change and my capabilities, both in my personal and professional spaces. I am so eternally grateful for the people I had the opportunity to engage with and learn from, because the lessons I have learnt from them will stay with me forever.

I really want to thank Edmund Rice International, and in particular, Brother Tino, Brother Brian and Brother Terry, for being so hospitable and for teaching me so much. I want to thank my fellow participants - Nisha, Taydren, Amy, Clal, Joyce, Josefa, Esther, Pilar, Sam, Patrick, Aloysius and Cormac, for their amazing reception and for being truly amazing and inspirational individuals. I am looking forward to collaborating with you all in the future. Finally, I want to thank Justice Desk Africa for nominating me to go on this amazing journey and for believing in me!

Written by Naazneen Kola

60 views5 comments


She is also a member of the Institute of Directors eggy car of South Africa, where she attends regular workshops and seminars on board governance and legislative developments.


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Jan 20

Edmund Rice International,


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Elisa Zalinka
Nov 09, 2023

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