When the UN Forum on Minority Issues met for the first time on 15-16 December in Geneva to discuss the issue of minorities’ access to education, Ms. Meghna Guhathakurta from Bangladesh was invited to speak about Dalit rights and access to education. Ms. Guhathakurta is the Executive Director of Research Initiatives and she contributes actively to the work of the newly formed Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights’ Movement (BDERM). IDSN had proposed her as a speaker who could talk about the Dalit perspective. Ms. Guhathakurta delivered a speech to the Forum on 15 December about the Learning Environment and School Governance in which she advocated for a proper learning environment and vocational training opportunities for 4,6 million Dalits in Bangladesh.
The UN Forum on Minority Issues was established by the Human Rights Council to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and to provide thematic contributions and expertise to the work of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues. The Secretariat invited IDSN to identify and propose a speaker to elaborate on the situation of Dalits, and IDSN proposed Meghna Guhathakurta based on her expertise and research on Dalits and other excluded groups in Bangladesh.
A set of action-oriented recommendations was prepared in advance of the first session of the Forum by Prof. Patrick Thornberry, Expert Member of CERD. IDSN submitted suggestions for recommendations and language on Dalits’ access to education that IDSN would like to see reflected in the paper in October. These recommendations draw on relevant sections of previous submissions and UN recommendations, including CERD General Recommendation no. 29; UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent; and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.