Reinforcing the link between mental health and human rights

Jul 7, 2017

In order to extend the advocacy of the National Human Rights Commission to cover the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with mental disabilities, the NHRC Strategy Plan Support Project under UNDP recently held a workshop geared at better sensitizing human rights defenders and health workers of the Far West

Human rights defenders and health workers of nine districts in the Far West came together to discuss how best to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental disability, at a recent workshop held in Dhangadi, Kailali. A total of 30 participants, half of whom were women, were part of the programme organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Strategy Plan Support Project (SPSP)—run with support from UNDP, the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination (SDC) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)—which is aimed at strengthening the Commission’s outreach at the local level and its capacity to effectively fulfil its mandate to protect and promote human rights in the country.

Interactions at the workshop expanded on the various challenges faced by mentally-disabled persons in Nepal—the stigma attached to their condition and the ill-treatment it often leads to—and wove into measures that could be taken to improve circumstances, particularly on the part of the government. The training also encompassed a range of other related topics, including the existing laws and policies on the right to health, basic principles of human rights monitoring, as well as conceptual clarity on crime, human rights violations, abuse and abetment, among others.

NHRC commissioner Govinda Sharma Poudyal expressed the seriousness with which the NHRC was engaged in the task, and the commission’s commitment to raising awareness, advocating and monitoring developments therein as part of its “human rights in every household” campaign.  

In-house resource persons of the NHRC, legal experts on mental health issues, master trainers trained by the SPSP and clinical psychiatrists comprised the facilitators in the three-day workshop, held from 2-4 July, who drew from their substantive experience in the subject matter to offer participants a range of case studies and presentations, along with engaging them in group work and open discussions. An example was a facilitator who had himself suffered from mental illness in the past, and who was therefore able to bring a very intimate, personal perspective to the discussions.  

Bringing together human right defenders and health workers of the Far West in a common forum in this manner enabled the NHRC to not just impart awareness and skills on advocating for the human rights of the mentally disabled, but also unveiled numerous opportunities for potential interventions in the future. As an outcome of the workshop, and in testament to their commitment to the cause, the participants also developed and signed a petition paper at the end of the programme titled the “Dhangadi Commitment 2017 for Mental Health and Human Rights." 

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