The Institute is a unique initiative

The Institute is a unique initiative founded by the three partners in 2004 as a first-of-its-kind programme aimed at building the capacity of young lawyers from Central and Eastern European and the Newly Independent States (CEE/ NIS) for litigation on women’s rights issues, including:

► violence against women; 

sexual and reproductive health and rights; 

employment discrimination.

The Institute, organized by the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF) in cooperation with its partners, already has successfully completed five rounds: WHRTI 2004-2006, WHRTI 2007-2009, WHRTI 2009-2011, WHRTI 2011-2013 and WHRTI 2013-2015 and trained more than 100 lawyers.

The WHRTI provides the participants advanced and in-depth knowledge on women’s human rights protection in the three areas noted above. The WHRTI improves their practical skills in writing and advocacy for development of strategic litigation in the region both at the national and international levels through using regional and universal human rights mechanisms such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Optional Protocol to ICCPR.

The WHRTI also gives lawyers an opportunity to get acquainted with the EU standards in the field of equal treatment of women and men, including the case law of the European Court of Justice.

The overarching objectives of the Institute are to:

► develop successful regional and country level litigation strategies on women’s human rights in CEE/ NIS;

► build the capacity of lawyers in CEE/NIS to litigate women’s human rights cases at the national, regional and UN levels;

► provide continuous support and expertise for women’s rights litigation efforts of lawyers in CEE/ NIS and seed new women’s rights litigation;

► strengthen the network of lawyers for women’s human rights’ strategic litigation in the region.

The initiative takes a three-prong approach in developing jurisprudence at the three above mentioned fields of women’s rights.

The WHRTI takes place in Bulgaria, comprises four sessions, and is convened every six months for a week and includes the same group of participants through out the two-year project period.The working language of the Institute is English.

The last two sessions are designed as moot-court sessions consisting of team work on hypothetical cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights, the CEDAW Committee and the UN Human Rights Committee.

The team of lecturers and facilitators comprises of well known professors, experts, and practitioners from Central and Eastern Europe, the United States and Western Europe specialized in violence against women, reproductive rights and employment discrimination and have expertise on various aspects of the use of the international and regional human rights mechanisms for the protection of women’s rights.

The alumni of the WHRTI are also involved as lecturers and facilitators. The Institute participants will be trained to examine existing legal theories that are currently applied to women’s human rights violations, including anti-discrimination legal theories and multiple/intersectional discrimination of women.

The Institute is also a place to develop new legal theories in the field of women’s rights and discuss their potential success in practice. Specific litigation activities will be both continued and launched by the participants between the Institute sessions, supported by the BGRF, NEWW, CRR and other partner organizations, members of the network of lawyers-fellows of the WHRTI and the Institute’s Expert Committee.

The Institute is planning to support additional initiatives such as joint research, litigation and advocacy initiatives of the participants, attending relevant international events, etc.

The project is implemented thanks to the generous support of our donor, the Open Society Institute – Budapest. Previous sessions also received financial support from other donors, including the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Global Fund for Women and Mama Cash.

Over 30 young lawyers have participated in the Institute from countries such as Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland (observer), Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The alumni of the Institute are establishing a network of women’s rights lawyers and are at the forefront of teaching, litigating and advocating on women’s rights in their countries. Some of them have already undertaken women’s rights litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and the CEDAW Committee.

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