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Hilary Bizumuremyi (2007)

Hilary Bizumuremyi

Hilary Bizumuremyi

I joined the Kimmage Development Studies Centre in September 2006 and followed successfully the BA Programme. The time I spent at KDSC was not only an academic time, but also an exploratory time. Through the well-structured courses of KDSC and its participatory learning methods, I become aware of unnoticed realities about myself, about my community, about my country and about the entire world system. Indeed, I deeply understood that poverty is neither natural nor accidental, but constructed by oppressive and inequitable systems of governance. A pertinent question emerged into my mind: How do I deconstruct and transform oppressive and inequitable systems of governance? Of course from the KDSC I explored one of the methods to deconstruct and transform such systems. That is conscientization.

Conscientization starts from fact-finding and from naming the reality around us. It is after naming the reality around us that we then start reflecting on it critically and analytically. Conscientization makes people aware. Aware of destructive realities taken for granted, aware of hidden assumptions behind the way they think and act, aware of inadequacies of the existing social, political and economic constructs, and indeed aware of actions to take in order to transform the oppressive and inadequate systems of governance. It is important to note that conscientization mainly depends on expression: people talking and expressing themselves in well organised groups. For the conscientization process to take place successfully a safe environment where people can express themselves without fear of being targeted by the oppressor is necessary. Mindful of this necessity, I decided to do more studies in Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I mainly wanted to understand ways through which the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression are achieved. To the new course, I took with me conscientization.
I joined the National University of Ireland-Galway in August 2008. There I followed successfully International Human Rights Law studies. It was amazing to know the historic development of International Human Rights law systems under the United Nations and regional bodies such as the European Union, African Union and the Organization of American States. Knowing the system in depth was however disturbing. These international organisations have established treaties enshrining human rights and fundamental freedoms, together with bodies to monitor the implementation of the enumerated rights. At the UN level for example, there are nine committees to monitor the implementation of the UN Treaties on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and every State party to a given treaty is under the obligation to report to the relevant committee. The committees are the following: the Human Rights Committee (HRC), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED). In 2006, the UN General Assembly created also a Human Rights Council. Differently from the committees, Human Rights Council reviews human rights records of all of all UN member States.
Each of the above committees considers periodic reports of each State Party to a treaty of which the committee is in charge. These committees have also the power to consider communications made by parties whose Human Rights have been violated, under pre-established conditions. However, the decisions of the committees and Human Rights Council are not legally-binding. They are suggestions, recommendations or views. The acceptance, the protection, the promotion and the fulfilment of Human Rights depend on the will of a given State. While there are adequate mechanisms to prosecute and punish all violators of law in domestic systems, there are no such mechanisms in the international system to prosecute and punish delinquent States, and this is a status quo which leaves human beings unprotected against abuses by their own States.
I quickly understood that only an empowered population which knows its Rights and Fundamental Freedoms will be capable to punish their own State leaders. I call this concept Human Rights by the people and for the people. I hence wrote my final dissertation on conscientization for Human rights. My title was absurd to many of my colleagues, especially those with a legalistic background, as nobody else had ever used such a phrase at the University. While my approach was people-centred, what is often known is the State-centred Human Rights Education. It was an innovative dissertation at the National University of Ireland-Galway. It was awarded 78% and I believe it remains a source of inspiration for those who read it and those interested in transforming International Human Rights Law System.
Since 2011, I work as an immigration advisor at a Citizens Information Centre in Dublin. People who come to me would be called my clients. However, I call them my friends who participate in the process of finding solutions to their immigration-related concerns, and, together, we have often found constructive solutions to their concerns. I have also worked with Crosscare Migrant Project to initiate an Opening Power to Diversity Programme which promotes migrants involvement in politics in Ireland by placing migrants with TDs or Senators for a period of six months. I am also a member of an advocacy group of Christian Brothers in Ireland which strives to promote Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms at the national and the United Nations levels. My work, which is inspired by humanistic approaches that I acquired from KDSC, has always been hailed by its beneficiaries and my employers.

 

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