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‘Working in human rights gives me an opportunity to contribute to humanity’ – Interview with Roichatul Aswidah, newly appointed ANNI advisor

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For this e-newsletter, ANNI interviewed Roichatul Aswidah, who is our newly appointed ANNI advisor, due to her extensive involvement and experience working both with civil society organisations (CSOs) and national human rights institutions. She served as the Commissioner of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia/Komnas HAM) from 2012 to 2017.

Roichatul is currently the Senior Researcher in the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), a member of ANNI in Indonesia. This interview focuses on her experiences and involvement with National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and ANNI.

What motivated you to become involved with human rights?

Working in human rights gives me an opportunity to contribute to humanity.

How did you get involved with ANNI? And why do you think it is important for a network like ANNI to exist?

I got involved with ANNI as I am one of the members of ELSAM. I got involved further, as Komnas HAM was approached by ANNI members to write the report on the performance of Komnas HAM.

ANNI is important as human rights violation is a very complex problem, and now it is facing new challenges that are beyond the national boundaries, such as the issue of refugees, migrant workers, and the involvement of the business sector, including the transnational and multinational corporations and corporations. Those issues could only be responded by working together and building a network.

Based on your experiences working with both NHRIs and CSOs – what do you think are the main challenges for CSOs and NHRIs in working together? What would be your recommendations to overcome these challenges?

The main challenge is building mutual understanding between the two entities on their roles and the challenges they are facing.  This can only be built once there is a good communication between the CSOs and the NHRIs. This mutual understanding opens the room for the two entities to identify the common agenda that both could work together to tackle the complex human rights problem.

Please tell us one of the most inspiring moments you had while working within Komnas HAM?

I worked for Komnas HAM for almost 20 years, 15 years as a staff (1994-2009) and five years as the Commissioner (2012-2017).

In 1996 there was a group of people from Papua coming to Komnas HAM telling about torture and killing in Papua. They also raised the issue of poverty in Papua while the province is rich in mineral resources.

This story taught me that the economic, social and cultural rights are as important as civil and political rights.  Human rights struggle is not a short-easy effort. It needs a long–continuous commitment to raise awareness to people about their rights, then they could push the Governments and the corporations to be accountable.

If you could give a message to people in CSOs working on or engaging with NHRIs, what would it be?

Do not lose hope in human rights, work with courage hand in hand with other CSOs and other entities and stay healthy.