EUVP Visit Story – Manak MATIYANI
As a human rights activist and development professional, I work with young people directly as well as with civil society organisations on gender justice, sexuality rights, civil and political rights both in India and at the regional and global levels. I was particularly excited about the opportunity for cross-learning on methods to strengthen human rights in a complex, inter-governmental system like the European Union.
I visited Brussels and Paris as part of the EUVP programme in October 2022. I was particularly interested in understanding the structures and processes for legal and policy protection of human rights across diverse nations in the EU. The functioning and separation of the Court of Justice of the EU, the European Parliament, Commission and Council offered significant insight into how complex systems can work to foster international collaboration and advance human rights.
I was struck by the detailed and meticulous planning by the EUVP team to customise each of my meetings to ensure relevance to my expertise and interests. I spent a week in Brussels meeting Members of the European Parliament as well as senior officials from across EU organisations and departments. I was very impressed by the frank discussions that allowed respectful dialogue and disagreements in the meetings. The programme was highly effective in creating an open and safe space and process for learning about the EU institutions and systems as well as the issues of my visit.
Hearing stories about the advancement of LBGTQ rights, women’s rights and immigrants rights by the Court of Justice of the EU, learning about the work being done to ensure higher representation of women, and reducing violence and sexual harassment was the highlight of my visit. Many EU colleagues shared openly about the ongoing efforts to bring diversity within the EU institutions and the further work that was needed. While the intent to work towards gender equity was clear, it was insightful to know and understand the gaps in bringing gender diversity beyond a binary of man and woman as well as racial diversity into the EU systems and institutions. A meeting with a Member of Parliament helped me understand the parliamentary system and the ways in which MEPs work on issues of queer rights and gender equity. I was surprised by the direct and open access to MEPs in the EU and the unassuming nature of the officials I met. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from the interlocutors as well as the international colleagues who took up the programme in the same week. The EUVP team members were welcoming and available for additional help and ensured that I was able to maximise the information and access that the programme provided. I also enjoyed the cultural component of the programme. Hearing the story of the creation of the EU and the visit to the Jean Monnet House really brought the history and political idea of the EU alive for me.
In a short duration, the EUVP enabled me to make many connections for learning and further work. I brought back connections for work and further engagement as well as a wealth of learning and experience that will help me engage with international development and human rights process better. I found the experience invigorating and would highly recommend it to others across diverse themes.