HPC Fellow: Thuva Kandasamy, IRCT

Thuva Kandasamy is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with IRCT. At IRCT, Thuva worked on the GATE project team, which aims to fight torture by using data. In her blog, she reflects upon the project’s collaboration of 15 torture rehabilitation centres spread across five different regions, who every day are faced with the reality of torture as survivors of torture reach them to seek help.

Fighting Torture with Data
By Thuva Kandasamy

When I started my fellowship at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), my knowledge on torture survivors, and the fight against torture in general, was very limited.

As a Human Rights student, I had, of course, come across the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the international human rights treaty that aims to prevent torture. However, having guidelines on a paper and implementing these principles in reality are two completely different things, and I had yet to learn how this was taking place in reality.

Therefore, my excitement was great when I became part of the GATE project team, which aims to fight torture by using data. This two-year project is a collaboration of 15 torture rehabilitation centres spread across five different regions, who every day are faced with the reality of torture’s grim face as survivors of torture reach them to seek help. Every year the centres encounter 100s and in some cases 1000s of victims who had been subjected to torture and who are severely traumatised. While doing their best to support the survivors, many centres also have to deal with an unstable political environment where the eradication of torture or support of victims of torture does not take up much space in either the public or political discourse.

The GATE project aims to change this and works towards achieving three different goals. First, the project seeks to provide rehabilitation services to victims of torture. The services comprise of medical assistance, psychological support, and legal support depending upon the needs of the survivor. The second focus is on gathering data and increasing the knowledge capacity of the involved centres. Finally, the project aims to engage in advocacy to influence laws and policy to the benefit of the survivors. At the centre of this is the Anti-Torture Database. This is a record-keeping tool developed by the IRCT with the vision of capturing information from torture survivors and using that information to analyze the patterns of torture on a local and global level.

One of my very first tasks was to conduct desk research on gender-sensitive approaches to torture rehabilitation. However, despite how much I searched, I could simply not find any numbers on how many victims are female or from the LGBTQI community. It appeared that this number simply did not exist. It is exactly issues like this that the centres try to overcome through this project. By keeping records, centres aim to plug similar knowledge gaps. In the long-term, the hope is that the information gathered by each individual centre can be shared on a global level and used in the fight against torture. Ultimately, this project seeks to accomplish two things. On the one hand, it seeks to prevent torture in the future and fight impunity today. On the other hand, it seeks to improve rehabilitation services and illustrate the consequences of torture, so we can argue for the very right to rehabilitation.

Every day has been a learning experience, whether I have been working on news stories, reports, or communicating with rehabilitation centres. The people that I have met during this journey have taught me the most. Their passion for what they do and their will to continue carrying out their work even in the most difficult settings has inspired me greatly.

My understanding of not only the torture rehabilitation sector but also the complex world of human rights and development has increased on many levels. It is full of challenges and hardship, but the compassion of the people I have met during this journey beats everything. I hope that when I embark on the next step of my journey that no matter what, I will be able to bring this passion and motivation with me.

Therefore, I am immensely grateful for this opportunity provided by the Hilton Prize Coalition and the IRCT. Throughout this fellowship, I have received great support from both organizations, which has made this learning opportunity even more fruitful.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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