Human Rights are the interlocking elements that build resilient and confident societies. Societies are able to withstand and surmount threats, peacefully resolve dispute, and facilitate sustained progress in prosperity and well being of their members. Every step towards greater implementation of the human rights agenda is an act of strengthening the bonds between communities and reinforcing inclusive development and peace. Every step away from it tugs us down towards suffering, injustice, hatred and conflict.
Good doctoring is based on building resilience and human rights is a powerful medicine. Promoting Human Rights and equality drives equal and sustainable economic development, it is in building access to all human rights that society becomes stronger and more able to resist unpredictable shock. Human rights express the core purpose of the United Nations. We can only attain peace, security and sustainable development for all societies when we advance the dignity and equality of all human beings. Many advocates enter human rights field with little to no training to mitigate the harms of exposure to trauma and how to foster resilience in themselves, their colleague and their community.
The issue of human rights abuses and violations prevails in the Nigerian societal structure, and while most of the world’s community sees Nigeria as a developing nation, much of human rights cases still go unreported. If we try to go back to the basic definition of the term “human rights” is practically defined as a basic and inherent right of any human individual allowing us to gain access to undeniable necessities such as the right to live, the right to liberty and the right to express. Human rights are largely understood as the rights of human beings arising from their very human nature and inherent dignity. It is generally accepted that members of society in a position of vulnerability are more likely to face serious human rights violations. Human rights workers are often witnesses to the human toll of atrocities, but their own mental health and the traumas they experience can be a taboo subject. There is a discourse around it being self indulgent to even focus on your own mental health. Human rights work is about injustice so the response to injustice will logically include being upset about its toll. There should be advocates from different human rights movements to support one another and give their time to reflect on their experiences, allowing them to reemerge into their restored energy. But sadly some, if not most of these basic rights are not fully bestowed to Nigerians even today.
Arbitrary Arrests: Mr. Sowore a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner was arrested on 3 August 2019 in his hotel room during a trip to Lagos. Security agents forcefully detained Mr. Sowore without informing him of any charges against him and flew him to Abuja, where he was being detained at the facility of the headquarters of the Nigerian State security service. He was held incommunicado until 6 August, during which time Mr. Sowore refused to answer any questions without consulting his lawyers. The arrest of Mr Sowore appears to be the direct consequence of his call for a peaceful protest scheduled to take place on 5 August 2019, using the hashtag #RevolutionNow. As such, the arrest and detention of Mr Sowore amount to a violation of his rights not to be arbitrary detained as guaranteed under Article 9 ICCPR and article 6 of the Banjul Charter.
Up-to-date, more and more young men and women including children are sent to detention centers for unlawful arrest, usually without formal charges or just being suspected as a member of Boko Haram. This is done by the military on a usual basis and even denying access of lawyers and family members once they reach detention facility. In relation to this, on September 24 of last year a mass trial was conducted in various detention facilitates in secret. This resulted in sentencing 460; plus, suspects to serve different prison terms. The good part is at least the government is taking action to deal with the lefties and separatist legally but the worst part about this is almost 90% of the detainees were not even proven to be members of Boko Haram nor taking part on any of their destructive activities.
Communal Violence: For many years, the lingering dispute between herdsmen and farming groups have resulted in 549 casualties and thousands displaced Nigerian into 12 different states. In February 21, 2017 alone 21 villagers were murdered by herdsmen from at least 3 communities in attacked district. Witnesses said that a group of herdsmen attacked, killed and looted the villagers and even burned their houses to the ground. These are just few of the many incidents of communal crimes. Nigeria is a democratic state yet, most people live in fear.
An important step to improve resilience in the violation of human rights to create inclusive process of building shared commitments and strategies which set our values and goals and produced a series of commitments aimed at promoting positive mental health and resilience advocacy.
Individuals respond in varying ways to exposure of trauma; thus, risk management strategies should respond to different needs of each advocate.
A holistic approach should be fostered than to overly focus on the effects of trauma exposure at the expense of attending to other forms of stress or harm such as interpersonal conflict.
Creating multiple pathways for communication and clear messaging about availability and openness about mental health issues is important, peer to peer support by creating programs and activities designed to foster community, trust, team work and mutual support. Learning about the myriad ways in which advocates find happiness and meaning in human rights work.
Feeling isolated is one of the most painful elements of experiencing PTSD, depression or anxiety and mentors can provide an important source of bonding, normalization and validation.
Creating a space for reflection and assessment of mental health strategies and continuously reviewing and improving methods based on lessons learned.