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EU-funded project promotes and protects rights of the marginalized San communities

The EU-funded project “Empowering the San: Legal Capacity Building for Human Rights” has officially been activated following a successful two-day inception workshop held from 19 – 20 June 2024, in Windhoek. This project is aimed at strengthening the rights and legal capacities of San communities across Namibia. 

The workshop was attended by an esteemed gathering of Chiefs, San people from across Namibia, San traditional and community leaders, government officials, civil society organizations, and dedicated rights activists, all united in their commitment to supporting and advancing this crucial project. The event served as a fundamental platform for fostering collaboration, sharing insights, outlining project objectives and collective effort required to address the challenges faced by the San people. 

This three (3) year project implemented by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) will focus on empowering the San communities by providing them with the necessary legal tools and knowledge to assert their rights and engage more effectively with legal and governmental institutions. The European Union has generously allocated approximately NAD 6.5 million towards this noble cause, highlighting their dedication to human rights and social justice. 

Director of the Legal Assistance Centre, Ms Toni Hancox, emphasized the critical importance of the project in addressing longstanding challenges faced by San communities in accessing justice and safeguarding their human rights. She underscored the commitment of the LAC to working closely with all stakeholders to achieve tangible outcomes that empower and protect San communities. “This project will focus on providing the tools to claim and access the rights to which the San are entitled. In so doing, it promotes sustainability. It is not for us to ‘give’ rights, but rather that we should provide the tools for the San to ‘claim’ their rights,” Ms Hancox proudly said.

EU Programme Manager, Ms Silke Hofs, emphasised the EU’s resolute support for initiatives that promote human rights and equality in Namibia. She said, “The European Union is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of marginalized people, inclusive development, cultural preservation, and combating discrimination. We believe that through partnerships and collaborative efforts, we can improve the conditions of marginalized people in Namibia – and elsewhere – in the medium to long term.” 

Honorable Royal Kao /Ui/o/oo, Deputy Minister of Marginalized Communities, noted the critical role of the Division of Marginalized Communities in advancing Namibia’s vision of inclusivity and leaving no one behind, as championed by the late President. Honorable Kao /Ui/o/oo emphasized the fundamental role that civil society organizations and indigenous groups play in the realization of development strategies for Indigenous Peoples. He underscored that civil society is ideally positioned to be independent, critical, transparent, and radical in driving sustainable change with the involvement of multiple stakeholders. 

Key outcomes of the workshop included commitment towards establishment of a framework for ongoing collaboration among stakeholders, the sharpening the identified priority areas for intervention, and providing further inputs and guidance on the project approaches to guide project implementation over the coming months and years. Additionally, the workshop provided and discussed a number of recommendations, to be implemented in the short to medium term, while recognizing that some actions are to be implemented over the long-term.