Promoting human rights in Kuwait
Human rights have been associated in the minds of Kuwaitis with political affairs, and it’s often mistak- enly believed that human rights are a conspiracy by the West to destabilize countries. This is simply not true.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was com- posed with participation from a group of nations including Muslim ones such as Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey. It covers all provisions of children’s, women’s, civil and political rights, among others.
Every two to four years, the Human Rights Council dis- cusses with signatory states to determine the extent of improvement in the humanitarian situation and civil rights in these countries, and here comes the role of human rights organizations. In Kuwait, the Human Line Organization is among the active bodies tackling human rights in the civil society, concerns about children’s issues, women, bedoons (stateless Arabs), migrant workers and political and civil rights. It was established in 2012 and has been working to report on the state of affairs in Kuwait to competent committees of the United Nations.
“It takes one to three months to write a report, depend- ing on data availability. We collect information on several levels, laws, bylaws and written regulations in collaboration with official bodies. Sometimes, we try to resolve a case by going through a specific procedure to find out whether it’s complying with the written regulations and laws, and how these are in line correspondingly with the global human rights agreement,” explained Lulu Al-Rudaini, a member of HLO. She added that unlike some other voluntary groups that may not work together despite the similarity of aims, human rights activists in Kuwait transcend all conflicts and always try to cooperate with each other.
“Human Line Organization has teamed up with the Social Work Society, the Kuwaiti Graduates Society and the Musawat group led by Sheikha Al-Kulaibi and Asma Al- Ghanim. The ministries of health, education and youth have helped in holding awareness activities and cam- paigns. Corporate social responsibility is a huge part of any business in Kuwait -and some of these who have spon- sored us are Al-Ahli Bank, Elevation Burger and Sultan Center. We do not accept financial support from embassies and people or firms with political or religious agendas in order to maintain our credibility,” Rudaini explained.
Passion and strong beliefs are not enough to guarantee the success and continuity of the work of civil society organizations. Some are forced to pull out under various circumstances. “We’re constantly keen to train new volun- teers. Human resources are the key source of our persist- ence. An individual needs to go past a series of basic and advanced workshops before obtaining membership of the Human Line Organization. Human rights are not selective - they come as a package. Therefore, a member should be tolerant and agreeable to them altogether,” stressed Rudaini.
Human Line Organization believes that improving the affairs of the community is not just a task of the govern- ment, but of the members of the community themselves. “We have held awareness activities for tolerance in all schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health. We partnered with the latter to raise awareness and actions to tackle social stigma against peo- ple with mental illness and psychological problems, as well as the stereotypical image of a psychiatrist. We hope that this paves the way for the adoption of a mental health law in Kuwait,” Rudaini said.
Promoting literacy, domestic helper welfare
“As a part of HLO activities, we recently launched a “Shelf” initiative aimed at enriching the contents of libraries in schools, hospitals, prisons and orphanages with used books of diverse fields in cooperation with publishers, authors, Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiya and the Kuwait Institute
for Scientific Research,” she enthused. As part of its cooperation with other soci- etal institutions, Human Line Organization
worked together with the Social Work Association, writing reports and recommendations to get the approval for the latest change in the domestic labor law.The new law set a mini- mum wage of KD 60. Rudaini said that this is just the begin- ning, as HLO aspires for the best and will strive to lobby for more rights.
“Our mission is to raise awareness of human rights among a greater number of people. All our courses are free for adults. Summer workshops for young people, between the ages of 14 and 19 years, have a token fee to cover the costs of materials used in the workshops. It’s important to bring up a generation that is conscious of its rights and the rights of others to live in dignity,” she said.
Presently, there are no sanctions on countries that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, each signatory state strives to improve its diplomatic reputation. Civil society institutions like the Human Line Organization are not against the government - they help to discover short- comings in order to avoid them in the future.