TWU Nursing Professors at the United Nations Human Rights Commission

According to the United Nations, human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.  These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible, and have to do with the right to life, physical integrity, liberty and security, equality and non-discrimination; the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the right to education; the right to an adequate standard of living; as well as the right to redress when rights are violated by state or non-state actors. 

Nurses, with our interest in social justice, equity, and the social determinants of health, could be described as “human rights workers”, and yet human rights are not widely written about by nurse scholars or taught by nurse educators.  TWU professors Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham PhD and Barb Astle PhD have an opportunity to shift nursing scholarship to a more explicit human rights agenda, through their research partnership on the human rights of persons with albinism.  Because of the prevailing African worldview that those who are conspicuous are lesser or supernatural beings, persons with albinism in Africa face a spectrum of human rights violations, from ostracism and discrimination, to lack of access to education and healthcare, to more extreme threats to their security including mutilation and murder.  Approached by Ikponwosa Ero, UN Independent Expert for the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism, Sheryl and Barb are undertaking knowledge synthesis research to establish the current state of research on albinism and human rights, with the aim of establishing an international research-policy network and agenda. 

Through this research collaboration, Sheryl and Barb were invited to attend the United Nations Human Rights Commission Experts Workshop on Witchcraft September 21 - 22, 2017 in Geneva.  The workshop brought together community advocates, faith leaders, and human rights experts for two days of presentation and discussion, and was co-hosted by Dr. Charlotte Baker (Lancaster University, UK), Gary Foxcroft (Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network), and Ikponwosa Ero (UN Independent Expert for the Enjoyment of Human Rights for Persons with Albinism).  Quoting Ero, “This ground-breaking event meant that, for the first time, witchcraft and human rights were discussed in a holistic, systematic and in-depth manner, building on and consolidating critical work done on the issue to date by various experts including co-organizers of the event.”

Sheryl and Barb (together with co-applicants Drs. Lori Beaman from University of Ottawa, Bonny Ibhawowh from McMaster University, Tettey Wisdom from University of British Columbia-Okanagan and collaborators Duncan Dixon, Ikponwosa Ero, and Dr. Rick Sawatzky) have received SSHRC funding (Insight Development Grant) for an expanded meta-narrative review, a Delphi Survey, and an International Roundtable in Geneva in September 2018 aiming to foster evidence-informed policy and human rights advocacy through the development of an international, interdisciplinary research-policy collaborative and a prioritized research agenda on albinism, spiritual/cultural practices, and human rights.


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