The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) is one of the leading human rights non-governmental organizations in Malawi. It was founded in February 1995 as a non-profit, apolitical, voluntary organization registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. The organization was founded by former student exiles who returned home to the promises of a new democracy in 1994. The organization is authorized to provide its services anywhere in Malawi. Its registration under Incorporation Act 1962 provides the basis that defines the organization’s mandate and scope of work. Currently programmes are carried out in all the (3) three regions namely Southern, Central and Northern Regions.
In March 2003, CHRR conducted a comprehensive strategic review that included a re-examination of the organization’s vision and mission, its existing structures, systems and policies, as well as they ways in which it carried out its work. The review re-affirmed the continuing efficacy of the principles and ideals on which CHRR was founded.However, it also observed that there was need for a change in operational approaches if CHRR was to make an impact in its chosen field of activity. To this end, the review recommended a programmatic approach to activities, and called for a change from being project-driven, as had been the case hitherto to a programme approach. It also called for greater emphasis on community-based activities as well as the streamlining of gender in CHRR’s policies and programmes.
The review further conducted a survey of the institution’s internal climate. In this context, it further called for, among others, the formulation of a clear policy on HIV/AIDS. The programme of activities for the three-year period 2003 to 2005 was also adopted. The strategic review also came up with reformulated CHRR vision, mission and also values that would guide the organization in its work.
Following the strategic review, CHRR embarked on implementation of the decisions and programmes adopted during the strategic review. At the constitutional level, the new Board of Trustees which came into office in August for a three year term began dealing with a number of issues, mainly the implementation of the new strategic plan.
The organization has a six – member board of trustees who are of high standing in the society drawn from disciplines such as law, education, political science, business and academics. The board makes the policy while the secretariat, which is headed by the Executive Director, runs the day – to – day activities.
The organization strives to promote equity and equality among the people regardless of gender, race, religion, language and skin colour by taking full recognition of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1945) to which Malawi is a signatory. It is thus imperative to say that in order to embrace the democratic values that call for the upholding of human rights, CHRR engages in continuous community mobilization to raise awareness on critical human rights issues of men, women, boys and girls.
CHRR has implemented a number of activities since its inception, which include the following among others:
- Civic education to the general public on democracy, human rights and good governance including civic and voter education during 1999 and 2000 Presidential and Parliamentary and Local Government Elections respectively.
- Awareness creation on Community safety and empowerment, and Constitutional Rights
- Training in democracy and human rights cross cutting the academic realm – professions in media and arts, teachers, and public officials.
- Production of public awareness materials and Newsletters (Kamba newsletter and Democracy Forum Magazine).
- Advocacy and lobbying for policy and legal reform.
- Conducted and produced research reports in various topics around Human rights and governance Issues.
- Networking with both local and international organization through participation in various forums and joint program. At local level, CHRR has been involved in networking through the Human Rights Consultative Committee, Church/NGO consortium, Prison Advisory Services. At International Level, CHRR has worked closely with Southern Africa Human Rights Trust, African Commission on Human and people’s Rights, Amnesty International among others.