WHRI Intensive Institute

WHRI Intensive

The WHRI Intensive Institute was most recently held in Quito, Ecuador, from August 19 – 30, 2019, preceded by an online learning program.  Details about this program are available HERE.


First established in 2004 by Costa Rican feminist jurist and activist Alda Facio, this unique capacity-building program brings feminist perspectives and an activist orientation to issues of women’s human rights, peace, and life-sustaining development. Conceptualized from its inception as a much-needed opportunity for new and seasoned advocates alike to take time away from the front lines of their work to reflect, analyze, and theorize; to develop new skills and knowledge to enhance the impact of their work; and to build solidarity with women and movements across intersections of identity and locality. This program prepares participants to become women’s human rights leaders and changemakers in their respective areas and contributes to the strengthening of transnational human rights organizing.


Through this program, participants will:

  • Build a theoretical and practical understanding of the UN Human Rights system, with a focus on CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and other important international WHR mechanisms for advocacy
  • Identify, analyse and assess a wide range of women’s human rights issues from an intersectional feminist activist framework that emphasizes the interconnectedness of oppressions
  • Develop action-plans that focus on women’s human rights advocacy and/or training, as pertinent to their work and context
  • Identify themselves as women’s human rights defenders that are part of a historical and ongoing transnational women’s human rights movement
  • Develop skills to engage in human rights training to share their learning
  • Contribute to the documentation and sharing of lesser or unknown feminist histories through the ANCESTRAS (Feminist Ancestors) project
  • Question dominant paradigms and engage in processes of exploring and visioning alternatives to capitalist, colonial and destructive forms of ‘development’ and globalization
Course Structure

This is an intimate, intensive capacity-building program limited to 20 participants, with multiple facilitators offering their expertise.

The WHRI Intensive is a three-part program – exact duration can vary from program to program:

  • Part 1 : 2-3 week online learning program (before the course)
  • Part 2 : 2-3 week in-person intensive *
  • Part 3 : 2-3 week post-institute online program and submission of project plans for feedback
  • Course completion:  submission of a short report on post-institute plan implementation 6-8 months after the end of the program

Online learning components:

You will require an internet connection, and must allocate approximately 8-10 hours per week for readings and videos, assignments, and commenting on each other’s work.

In-person intensive:

Classes generally run for 3 hours in the morning, and 3 hours after lunch.  Some programs have evening or weekend activities, depending on location and the course duration and framework.  The course will require your full attention, so please plan to be away from work to maximize your learning.

Course Framework

The WHRI Intensive brings together a balance of academic/theoretical inquiry and engaged, activist praxis. Women’s human rights are both the subject and the guiding framework of the institute. This is reflected in the teaching principles and methodology. The WHRI aims to create an inclusive, supportive, and celebratory space that allows for collective sharing and knowledge-building alongside skills training. Classes are participatory, incorporate a broad variety of readings, videos, and activities, and in an effort to promote integration and well-being, participants are offered embodied learning modalities, such gentle yoga classes, twice a week.

The four pillars of the WHRI Intensive curriculum include:

  1. CEDAW: Women’s Human Rights Theory, Praxis, and Advocacy
  • Basic notions and principles of international human rights law and practice
  • The herstory and development of the transnational women’s human rights movement
  • CEDAW, Special Procedures and other UN mechanisms, emphasizing civil society engagement
  • Using CEDAW as a visionary tool to enhance women’s movement-building and advocacy
  1. Feminist Frameworks
  • Patriarchal paradigms–structures of violence and oppression
  • Intersectionality – diversity and commonality amongst women
  • Feminist methodologies and analysis
  • Collaborative feminist knowledge-building
  1. Human Rights Education, Teaching and Learning
  • Theoretical and practical approaches to education and training on human rights
  • Workshop planning and facilitation skills
  • Participatory exploration of training and education techniques
  1. Living Our Rights: Relationships, Self-care and Sustainability
  • Protection of human rights defenders and activist sustainability
  • Reclaiming the body:  wellness, contemplation, self- and collective care as a political act
  • Human Rights as how we live: conscious communication & conflict resolution; unravelling our internalized patriarchy and colonization; collaboration and effective group work
  • Visioning:  alternatives to mainstream understandings of development, peace and global capitalism

Course topics include:

  • The UN System and Women’s Human Rights
  • The Herstory of Transnational Women’s Human Rights Activism
  • Feminist Frameworks – Patriarchy, Intersectionality, Transformative Visions
  • CEDAW, UN Special Procedures, and other Human Rights mechanisms
  • Advocacy Planning
  • Training and Education for Women’s Human Rights
  • Culture, Religion and WHR
  • Violence and Peace
  • Sexual and Reproductive Rights
  • Women’s Holistic Wellness
  • Feminist Ancestors
  • Visitations to NGOs or local expert speakers

All of our faculty members have extensive activist experience at local, national and international levels and are known for their theoretical, academic and activist contributions in the area of women’s human rights.  They have hands-on experience with CEDAW, the UN Special Procedures, the UPR and with regional human rights systems.   The facilitation team for each program is selected in order to provide optimum learning and advocacy-planning support for participants.  Experts are invited to share knowledge on diverse but interconnected areas of women’s human rights: SOGI rights; rights of women with disabilities; rights of indigenous women; cultural rights and WHR; violence against women and girls; reproductive rights; women, peace and security; and more.

Course Requirements


There are no educational prerequisites for this program, nor is a background in law required.  In order to qualify for the program, you must demonstrate a commitment to gender equality and be working to support women’s human rights in some capacity, or have defined plans to do so.  You must submit a good working idea for your post-institute plan that demonstrates your commitment to action and impact after the program.

You must have a good grasp of the working language of the course, and be comfortable reading and writing in that language.  You must have access to the online program through a laptop or tablet.  Persons of all genders are welcome to participate in the course, but the course itself is focussed on women/people who identify as women.  Special preference is given to applicants from the Global South or under-represented groups of women, and we seek to have good regional diversity.

Completion Requirements:

Participants who complete the course requirements to the facilitation team’s satisfaction will receive a certificate for the program.

Note that you must complete a minimum of 85% of the coursework, both online and in-class, in order to qualify for a certificate of completion.   This means you cannot miss more than 1 day of class per week of the program to qualify for your certificate.  There are no exams for the program, but a high level of participation, analytical engagement and assignments is expected.  You are also required to submit a short report detailing your post-institute plan implementation 6-8 months after the end of the program.

Application and Registration

Applications for each program are accepted online.  Watch our website and social media for announcements on course dates and application periods.  The application for this program is in two parts:

  1. Fill in the general online application form
  2. Submit your post-institute plan online (details about post institute plans below)

Registration steps:

  1. Once you have a received a notification that your application has been accepted, a deposit is required to hold your space in the program.  Our Communications Officer will provide payment information and the timeline for deposits and complete payments.
  2. You must look into any visa or travel requirements for the program. Visa processing can take a long time, so you must start early and inform us of your progress.  Allow two months processing time to be safe, more for some regions.

If you wish to be considered for a discount or scholarship, there is a secondary set of documents to be submitted.  Please let us know if you wish to be invited to apply for a scholarship.

Post-Institute Plans

As the second part of your application to the WHRI Intensive, you must submit a 200-300 word statement on your plan for implementing your learning post-WHRI. Your WHRI application will not be complete until we receive this statement, and it plays an important role in admission decisions.

Note that you will also be asked to submit a report of your post-institute project implementation six to eight months after the end of the program.  The best among these reports will become part of an online database of information available for others, and will be a testament to your learning as well as the impact of the program itself.

 Note: this aspect of the course will be very helpful in applying for funding, so be sure to include your project plan with any funding applications you submit on your own

Project Planning Tips

If you are already working in the field of women’s human rights and plan to use the institute to augment your work, your plan can reflect how you plan to apply your learning in your existing work/project/programs.  Your post-institute plan should grow out of or augment your work to ensure that you will be able to follow through and attain maximum impact.  Your idea will grow and change throughout the course, but for your application you need to have a good idea as a starting point.

Some ideas?

a)  Development and execution of a women’s human rights training course/workshop for your colleagues/associates/target audience in your work.

b) Project to promote and support implementation of the CEDAW committee’s concluding observations for the most recent report for the State Party (country) in which you live/work.

c) Contributing to development of a Shadow Report to the CEDAW review process.

d) Documentation of WHR activism and movement-building strategies to share good practices across movements.

In either case, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the most recent concluding observations of the CEDAW committee for the State Party in which you live/work.  You can retrieve these through the search engine on the OHCHR website found here.

We also recommend reading both official country reports and any Alternative or Shadow reports submitted by NGOs to the CEDAW committee.  These are available in the CEDAW review archives.