South and Central Asia Programs

In Afghanistan, DRL supports media programs that strengthen human rights and democracy in the Islamic context.

DRL's partner organization provides communication and leadership training on the connection between Islamic principles and human rights, tolerance and civic responsibilities for local Islamic leaders, elected officials and local journalists. The trained leaders then lead their peers through community forum panels. The project also combines a radio magazine with their current Islamic rights radio drama to broadcast dialogue between parliamentarians and constituents and to profile success stories, expanding the conversations into thousands of rural communities.

DRL supports a rule of law initiative in Bangladesh.

The DRL implementer works to promote freedom of association in Bangladesh's Export Processing Zones (EPZs) by providing training and technical assistance to EPZ workers, forming and registering Workers Associations (trade unions) and negotiating first-time ever collective agreements under the second phase of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Workers Association and Industrial Relations Act. A second program objective is to empower the zones' largely female workforce to assume leadership roles within their Workers Associations. Through various activities, the program will promote democratic dispute resolution mechanisms in the EPZ.

DRL supports programs on independent media and access to information in Kazakhstan.

One DRL-implementer works to promote free media in Kazakhstan. This program developed Kazakhstan's first online news/information exchange for independent mass media, providing an informational resource on events in the country. Newscasts of various mass media are published on the website, archived and available for use. Twenty regional radio or television stations and newspapers receive computers, monitors, UPS and the necessary licensed software to participate in the exchange. Ten stations and newspapers that are in strong financial standing receive software and technical support. This technology gives small regional media companies the opportunity to compete with state- and oligarch-owned media-holdings in Kazakhstan's media market.

Another DRL partner organization established and continues to support four existing Information Centers in Kazakhstan. The implementer seeks to ensure that each center distributes news digests in Russian and local languages on a regular basis. Each center holds regular discussion clubs at the center and in outlying villages in order to ensure information is disseminated throughout the country. It also provides training focused on engaging citizens in the political process.

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In Kyrgyzstan, DRL supports programs focused on independent media and access to information.

One DRL-implementer offers administrative and consultative support to the Media Support Center Foundation (MSCF) in Bishkek as it runs the printing press and implements its business plan, including providing monthly grants to cover business-operating expenses. The organization conducts activities that support the MSCF and its effort to become a self-sustaining entity through additional oversight, training, and grants. The organization also supports independent print media outlets in the Kyrgyz Republic with additional trainings and consultations. The program works with MSCF administrative staff to increase sales and productivity, which will decrease the Foundation's need for outside financial support.

Another DRL partner organization established and continues to support 17 existing Information Centers in the Kyrgyz Republic. The implementer seeks to ensure that each center distributes news digests on a regular basis and holds regular discussion clubs and trainings. These discussion clubs include visits to outlying villages near each center to ensure information is disseminated throughout the Kyrgyz Republic. Each center is a neutral forum in which citizens can learn about their rights as voters, international standards for electoral processes, and the role of domestic election monitors in ensuring a fair process. They can debate the pros and cons of various candidates, and appreciate the importance of an informed electorate.

DRL's programs in Nepal support the rule of law, the National Human Rights Commission, and the peace process.

One DRL program implementer works to strengthen the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to monitor human rights abuses in order to sustain the peace process; develop a new human rights legislative framework; and reactivate a broad-based NGO network dedicated to civic/voter education, public dialogue, and election monitoring. The organization also prepares a range of electronic and printed civic education products for distribution through radio and television that helps to facilitate local dialogue. The electronic education produces are broadcasted on 20 FM stations and followed up with facilitated public meetings in 60 districts.

Another partner organization provides technical legal assistance and financial support to the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) in order to create community networks that enhance citizens' awareness of and involvement in the reform process. The implementer assists the NBA to launch a country-wide public information and awareness-raising campaign through radio, television, and print media as well as through the distribution of public legal education materials via community networks. The NBA incorporates these concerns into a comprehensive report which is presented to political party leaders and decision-makers in advance of the Constituent Assembly process.

DRL program initiatives in Pakistan focus on strengthening the capacity of women political leaders and youth leaders, supporting independent media, human rights, promoting free and fair elections, and mobilizing women voters.

One DRL program seeks to mobilize women voters so that they are represented in the political process. Objectives of the project include: fostering an environment that encourages women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province to vote; and increasing the number of women who participate in the national elections, scheduled for late 2007 or early 2008. Specifically, the implementer engages in policy dialogue with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to promote policies and practices in order to mitigate gender-based discrimination and harassment; engage in a series of dialogues with religious leaders willing to discuss alternative interpretations of Islamic law and develop the dialogues into a documentary style television program; work with the ECP during the pre- and post-election period to compile and analyze gender-disaggregated election data; work with local partners to develop visual communication and outreach materials on civil rights and voting procedures in local languages; and work with its local partner to develop a training module on gender-sensitive election monitoring.

Another program seeks to build the capacity of independent media, promote rule of law, and strengthen freedom of expression in Pakistan. This project is aimed at training local journalists to cover critical human rights, rule of law, and election-related issues facing the country through practical training and by developing radio programs. The program training teaches journalists to report on human rights and other legal violations in a critical manner that includes legal aspects. The reporting will reduce ignorance of political and civil laws when journalists report on violations. The program also strengthens freedom of expression by creating a media resource center and monitoring violations against the media through the publication of monthly reports. These reports are used as an advocacy tool with the government and help document the significant increase in attacks on journalists and the media since 2006.

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DRL's program in Tajikistan supports independent media.

The program implementer helps local partners launch five radio stations and create a production studio to support independent media. The production studio produces programming and a library of radio programs accessible to all stations free of charge. To ensure success and sustainability, the program supports the stations with training, technical support, Internet access, links to other broadcasters to provide additional programming content, and contacts with NGOs seeking broadcast partners for information campaigns.

This project includes the production of a comprehensive handbook on radio broadcasting that includes chapters on community radio, student radio, legal aspects specific to Tajikistan (including licensing and customs regulations), technical issues, procurement (including addresses), customs, project and proposal design, donors, programming and related issues. Also, a radio production center in Dushanbe creates weekly news exchange programs on a wide range of newsworthy subjects that are distributed freely to both state and independent radio stations for broadcast.

In Turkmenistan, DRL supports a gender advocacy program.

DRL's partner organization works to strengthen the capacity of specialists and activists who regularly encounter victims of domestic violence to address the legal aspects of the problem and to increase their ability to press for a more effective governmental approach to the issue. The project also seeks to increase support available to women, particularly victims of domestic violence.

DRL's Uzbekistan programs support the strengthening of democracy, human rights and rule of law. They seek to reduce the number of cases involving serious abuse or torture, encourage government officials to prevent the use of torture, and improve overall conditions of human rights in Uzbekistan by creating awareness and strengthening documentation and data collection.

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