A ground breaking resolution has just been endorsed by rights groups meeting in Tanzania, to protect and promote the Rights of Communities Discriminated based on Work and Descent.
The historic Resolution was passed by the Non-Government Forum of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the ongoing 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights taking place in Arusha City.
“This is a significant step toward achieving equality and justice,” said Queen Bisseng the Africa coordinator of the Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFOD) from Cameroon.
“Civil societies need to recognize and advocate for the rights of GFODs in terms of access to health, education, employment, land and housing and representation in decision-making bodies,” she stated.
“So this resolution represents hope for a brighter and more inclusive future for CDWD throughout Africa,” adds Ms Queen Bisseng, Africa Co-ordinator, GFOD.
On his part, the GFOD United Nations’ Advocacy Officer, Johannes Butscher who hails from Latin America said the resolution marks a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle against what he described as ‘Hidden Apartheid.’
“Slavery played key role in the segregation of some indigenous communities because most are the people formerly taken as slaves and managed to liberate themselves forming own societies that are being discriminated against,” said Butscher.
It now sets the ball rolling towards the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD) across Africa.
The Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFOD) is a global platform of communities oppressed due to casteism, traditional and modern forms of slavery.
Global Forum of CDWD has been intervening at the Advisory Committee on Genetic Privacy and Research (ACGPR) to demand the rights of the marginalised communities of Africa and recognize them and demand full realization of their rights.
The ACHPR, comprising of representatives from various African nations, NGOs and other stakeholder groups convened in Arusha, Tanzania from 16 to 18, October 2023, to deliberate on this vital issue.
After intense discussions, the Non-Government Organization’s forum of the Commission unanimously adopted a comprehensive resolution dedicated to combat discrimination against CDWD.
It was observed that communities Discriminated on Work and Descent are found in more than 15 countries across Africa.
The NGO forum acknowledged that discrimination based on work and descent is widespread across the Africa and that multiple, aggravated, and intersecting forms of discrimination impact women, children the youth and persons with disabilities.
Also susceptible to discrimination are people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, which makes them even more vulnerable to the denial of their human rights in par with others.
To address discrimination based on work and descent, the NGO Forum of the ACPHR calls upon States Parties to acknowledge the existence of discrimination based on work and descent as a distinct form of discrimination that deserves the attention of the African community and that affects peoples across Africa.
Further calls upon States Parties to take all necessary constitutional, legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, educational, and social measures to eliminate discrimination based on work and descent in their respective states.
They are also required to respect, protect, promote, implement and monitor the human rights of those facing this discrimination, including thorough, robust disaggregated data collection in line with data protection and data privacy principles;
The Resolution urges States Parties, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organisations and human rights defenders belonging to communities discriminated on work and descent, to combat prejudicial beliefs and practices in all their forms, including notions of untouchability, pollution and caste superiority or inferiority, as well as prevent human rights violations taken on the basis of such beliefs.
Requests the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to initiate a process to realise a continental study on the situation of communities discriminated on work and descent to be shared with the African Union organs and institutions.
Decides to establish a Working Group on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent, composed of Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, with the participation of representatives of communities discriminated on work and descent, further study the practices of discrimination based on work and descent in the African region and their impact on the realization of human rights under the African Charter, with the aim of developing further interventions to prevent discrimination based on work and descent.
The passing of this resolution generates visibility for the various regional communities in Africa oppressed by caste and caste-like structures, encourages the state and other mechanisms to address their issues nationally and regionally, and is a significant step towards a United Nations Declaration recognizing and protecting the rights of CDWD globally.
Mr Paul Divakar, the Convenor of GFOD says, “Africa has a long-standing issue of slavery and slavery practices, Caste like structures and descent of particular communities within the ethnic groups plays a large role in their marginalization…
… We are encouraged by the ACHPR to adopt this resolution and it is a major stride towards a more inclusive and equitable Africa, where all individuals, regardless of their work and descent, can enjoy their human rights and freedoms without the fear of discrimination.”
He pointed out that this was a testament to the continent’s commitment to upholding the principles of human rights and people’s dignity.
“The centuries-old, pre-colonial form of discrimination and enslavement is based on highly complex internalized social systems and structures.