Know Your Rights!

The Know Your Rights!/Connais Tes Droits! Projet


For those that do not understand their country’s colonial language, availability and access to information concerning human rights is often close to impossible. This also provides a challenge for organizations or individuals attempting to communicate these concept and rights to communities without an appropriate translation. This is an attempt to initiate a larger, more-inclusive conversation on human rights. Bridge the communication gap between administrations or organizations and rural and urban populations with African languages. Some of the goals of this project include:

  1. Increase the availability of human rights documents in African Languages on an open access website;
  2. Provide the opportunity to use these documents as a tool to enlighten people with regard to their human rights;
  3. Enhance the populations pride, respect and stewardship for their own and others’ language and culture with documents that address important contemporary themes in languages children speak in their community and at home;
  4. Contribute to resources for discussing administrative and intellectual concepts in African languages to engage the language and the community with the greater human rights movement and governmental and non-governmental structures.

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Documents and Language Prioritization

ALMA has identified four documents for translation that are the most relevant to serving the needs of the population directly. These documents are: The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and three documents from the African Commission of Human and Peoples Rights’ Key Documents and Legal Instrument Documents. The three African Commission’s documents focus on the articles directly related to the human rights of the population while the organization and by-laws of the committees have been omitted. The documents address basic human rights concepts and also those addressing the most vulnerable demographics of society, women and children. The four documents selected for translation are:

  1. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  2. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  3. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;
  4. African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child.

This long-term project underway and we are prioritizing countries and languages according to funding and logistics. The criteria for language selection includes languages of:

  1. Indigenous communities;
  2. Countries that have a significant mother tongue constituency as well as a second language constituency, prioritizing languages that serve as second languages in these countries;
  3. Countries that have ranked low on human rights indexes due to vulnerability and exposure to human rights abuse and those subject to ongoing conflict.
  4. Countries that rank in the lower end of the UN Human Development Index

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History of the Know Your Rights Project

Chafi Bakari ACHPR Legal Advisor
Chafi Bakari ACHPR Legal Advisor

The project began in 2006, at the annual meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia. At this time, the African Commission’s documents were only available in the languages of the Africa’s former colonizers. Leigh Swigart, of Brandeis University and John Hutchison of the African Language Materials Archive Project attended that meeting and had the opportunity of discussing this situation with members of the Commission. The result was Know Your Rights!: a project to translate the 5 charters and documents of the African Commission into African languages in order to make them accessible to all Africans.

At the 2007 meeting in Banjul, The Gambia, the OAU’s African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) asked the personnel representing WARA’s ALMA Project there, to begin taking on the important responsibility for translating the various human and peoples’ rights documents of the ACHPR into African languages. Thus the “Know Your Rights!” Project was born. Those involved prepared to write grant applications and discussed the idea of starting a pilot translation project in Senegal. By the summer of 2007, they had organized a workshop in Dakar to plan for how it might evolve in the future. Since that time, ALMA has initiated this process with the translation of a few of the documents into two languages of Burkina Faso: Moore and Fulfulde. These translations were done by two members of the ALMA Advisory Board Henriette Ouedraogo Ilboudo for Moore, and Issa Diallo for Fulfulde.

In April 2008, there was a follow-up meeting at Brandeis University, during a visit there by Prof. Fatou Kiné Camara, of the Faculty of Political and Legal Sciences of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. The purpose of the meeting was to plan a series of small pilot conferences that would advance the goals of the project and gain experience relevant to the search for funding for a larger project. Attendees included: Prof. Camara, Jennifer Yanco of WARA, Leigh Swigart, and John Hutchison.

The committee agreed to sponsor two pilot projects during the month of May, several days apart, in Senegal. The pilots entailed organizing conference-debates in national languages, focusing on articles from the Protocol of the African Union Charter of human and peoples’ rights on the rights of women.

The project is now being shepharded by Brandeis University, WARA/WARC, ALMA, and by Prof. Fatou Kiné Camara.

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Prof. Fatou Kiné Camara
Prof. Fatou Kiné Camara

Prof. Camara has:

  • incorporated her law students into the project
  • integrated partners from community radio stations in Senegal
  • integrated partners from women’s groups in Senegal
  • organized the two pilot workshops with community groups in Senegal

Other academic products, workshops, and inspired projects include:

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African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Documents

ACHPR websites:

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The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights

From the UDHR website:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, it set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 during its 183rd plenary meeting.

The UDHR is one of the most translated documents in the world and although one can find links to major African languages on the UDHR website, ALMA seeks to expand the translations into additional African languages according to the Know Your Rights criteria.

Click below for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR translations are noted:

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Here are the three legal instruments documents that constitute the basis of the KYR Project concerning:

Human and People’s Rights Women’s Rights & Children’s Rights

Click on the arrow for available African language translations.

  1. African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights African language translations English or French
  2. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa African language translationsEnglish or French
  3. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child African language translations English or French

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ACHPR Indigenous Peoples Document

The ALMA Project Coordinator, John Hutchison has continued to collaborate with Geneviève Rose and the ACHPR committee she is on, The International work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). ALMA has facilitated for them the translation of a summary document entitled “Indigenous Peoples in Africa: The Forgotten Peoples?” [The African Commission’s work on indigenous peoples in Africa]. Thus far this collaboration has led to the translation of this document into Fulfulde, Tamajaq, Kirundi and Maa. With ACHPR’s permission and given the importance of making this material available to the concerned constituencies, ALMA is posting these translations on its “Know Your Rights!” page.

Click on the arrow for available African language translations.

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Human Rights Vocabulary List by Language

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All Human Rights Documents by Language

Administrative Documents

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