Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"There Needs to be a Will"

By Marta Kubisiak

The theme of our day was one that we often touched on in our other discussions, but never had our focus completely on. Time had finally come for us to fully dedicate our attention to this important topic: "Education and Promotion of Human Rights in Poland".

The first session, "Innovative Strategies for Education and Raising Awareness", gave us some further knowledge on "how these things are done in Poland". Our guests were Alicja Pacewicz, Vice-President of the Center for Citizenship Education, Jerzy Halbersztadt, Director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and Witek Hebanowski, Founder and President of The Other Space Foundation). They shared with us the differences between formal and informal education, advantages and disadvantages of the "in-door" education and the other completely (or not) different tools such as e-tools. We also discussed about various ways of using the Internet as a means to inform and educate people about human rights. However, it was agreed that in cultivating consciousness and awareness about certain issues, it is not effective to rely solely upon this tool. Rather, there needs to be a combination of formal education and other forms of learning.

To get some fresh air and to move on to another equally topic of interest, we changed the location and went to "Sklep z kanapkami" ("Shop with sandwiches"). At this nice restaurant, which serves also as a meeting place for activists and young people, we were welcomed by Ewa Tomaszewska, a journalist and a co-founder of the cabaret Barbie Girls, and Wojciech Szot, a co-owner of Abiekt.pl. Our guests shared their experience of using arts as a means to promote human rights within the LGBTQ movement. Naturally, our discussion extended to the LGBTQ movement in Poland in general, and its difficulties and challenges, including the lack of recognition for their rights in the Polish laws, the stereotypes within the community itself, the future of LGBTQ movement in Poland and differences between the changes in law and the changes in social mentality.

We moved again to the Center for International Relations for our next session, which was probably one of the most controversial debates we have had so far in our program. Our guests, Elżbieta Korolczuk Ph.D., from Women's 8th of March Alliance (Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca), and Paulina Bednarz-Łuczewska, from Kozminski University, came to speak with us about the situation of women in Poland. Holding very different views on some dilemmas such as the pro-choice/pro-life issue, their debate and exchange of arguments were the prefect representation of how divided the Polish society are regarding certain questions. However, both agreed upon some other issues related to women’s rights and treatment such as the fact that Polish healthcare system is far from being perfect, especially when it comes to the treatment and wellbeing of pregnant women that are giving birth in the hospitals. This controversial session left us with many questions to debate and ponder, and maybe also to deal with.

The long day came to an end with the last session led by our Fellows, Franziska Seeck and Agnieszka Skoneczna. We were brainstorming around the fundamental questions related to human rights education such as „who should be the target group?”, „what are the best ways to do human rights education?”, „what are the challenges?”. At the end of this long day, we definitely learned something new and had plenty to think about….a typical characteristics of an HIA day that never ceases to challenge us even after the official session is over. 

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