Call for Applications for the Women’s Human Rights Training Institute (WHRTI), 2023-2025

Deadline for applications: 5 August 2023

Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF),

in cooperation with partners, and namely The Advocates for Human Rights from Minnesota,

are pleased to announce the

Call for Applications to participate in the training programme of the 9th Round of the Women’s Human Rights Training Institute (WHRTI-9), 2023-2025

as a special round to enhance women’s rights and women’s agency in times of crises


WHRTI is a unique educational and training programme founded in 2004 aimed at building and developing the capacity of young lawyers from Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (CEE/NIS) for litigation on women’s rights and for campaigning for women’s empowerment on themes including:

gender-based violence against women and domestic violence,

sexual and reproductive health and rights, and

social and economic rights, and employment discrimination,

women’s participation in decision-making and politics, violence against women in politics,

gender stereotyping and rape myths

and multiple or intersectional discrimination

as well as the backlash to women’s human rights.

With our societies being unequal in the first place, the additional consequences of the pandemic of COVID-19, the anti-gender backlash, military conflicts, and multiple other crises have all impacted women in a disproportionate and more severe manner. Women experience multiple and compounded forms of discrimination as they constitute the greater part of vulnerable groups, including those affected most by poverty, elderly women, women living in rural areas, women with disabilities, migrant and refugee women, sole parents and heads of households, and women living with other vulnerabilities. The Women’s Human Rights Training Institute will also address the issues related to the impact of these crises on women’s rights.

WHRTI, organized by the BGRF in cooperation with its partners, has already successfully completed eight rounds: WHRTI-1 – 2004-2006, WHRTI-2 – 2007-2009, WHRTI-3 – 2009-2011, WHRTI-4 – 2011-2013, WHRTI-5 – 2014-2016, WHRTI-6 – 2016-2017, WHRTI-7 – 2018- 2019, WHRTI-8 – 2020-2022 and has trained more than 140 lawyers.

WHRTI provides the participants with advanced and in-depth knowledge and practical exercises on women’s human rights protection and litigation in the main areas noted above. WHRTI improves their practical skills in legal writing, analysis and advocacy (in English) for development of strategic litigation both at the national and international levels through the use of regional and universal human rights mechanisms, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the ECtHR, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Optional Protocol to ICCPR, other human rights treaties, UN Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review. 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 relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

WHRTI will advance efforts to ensure that States respect and enforce their international obligations, including under UN and regional human rights treaties, in conjunction with implementation of the SDGs Goal No 5 as well as adherence to higher HR standards.


Up to 25 participants will be selected among practicing lawyers and legal counselors working on human rights or women’s rights in the region. Successful applicants should:

  • have a substantial and sustainable professional interest and a demonstrated commitment to women’s human rights advocacy and/or litigation, and in using international and national legal instruments and litigation creatively to secure redress for women’s rights violations;
  • have a professional relationship/affiliation for at least one year prior to the application with an independent institution/organization that has capacity to litigate women’s rights cases or has experience with litigation and preferably focuses her/his work on women’s human rights;
  • have demonstrated interest and at minimum some basic legal knowledge and understanding of international universal and regional human rights law, legal standards, mechanisms and practice,
  • commit to remain in contact with the organizers for logistics and training for the entire duration of the training programme, to commit to completing all the preparatory training tasks and inter-sessional assignments within the indicated deadlines, and to actively participate in all in-person three sessions of the Institute (each session will last approximately one week);
  • commit to intersessional virtual training sessions and assignments, and;
  • have fluency in written and spoken English, and advanced English language comprehension.

WHRTI does accept a limited number of students from other countries in Europe and other continents as “Observers.” Thus, applicants from countries outside of the CEE/FSU region may still apply but should keep in mind that successful Observer applications will be accepted on a more limited basis.


The completed WHRTI application form and all supporting documents (see the application form for details) must be sent to the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF) by 5 August 2023, to the following e-mail addresses: and

Applicants shortlisted for an interview will be contacted by 5 September 2023.

Interviews with the pre-selected applicants will be held online by a representative of the WHRTI team and partners.

The final selection will be completed by 25 September 2023.

The first session of the WHRTI 9 is planned to take place in mid-November 2023.


The overarching objectives of the Institute are:

  • to develop successful international, regional and country- level litigation strategies on women’s human rights in CEE/NIS;
  • to build the capacity of lawyers in CEE/NIS to litigate women’s human rights cases at the national, regional and UN levels;
  • to provide continuous support and expertise for women’s rights litigation in CEE/NIS and for promoting the empowerment of women;
  • to strengthen the networks of lawyers for women’s human rights’ strategic litigation in the region and beyond.

Training conditions:

WHRTI will consist of three sessions scheduled within two years. The first session will last 8 training days and will be focused on theoretical lectures, presentations and discussions on the development of legal feminist theories, the establishment of the relevant regional and universal norms and standards, and the available legal remedies at regional European and universal level. The second session will last 5 training days and will be focused on practical exercises on the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – a moot court session. The third session will also be a moot court session, with focus also on UPR lobbying and advocacy using UN Special Procedures, and will last for 5 days and will provide the participants with the opportunity to exercise their practical legal skills addressing the UN treaty bodies, and specifically the UN CEDAW Committee and the Human Rights Committee.

The Institute participants will be trained to examine and apply existing legal concepts and theories that are currently applied to women’s human rights violations, to participate in developing new legal concepts and strategies in the field of women’s rights and to discuss the potential for their success in practice.

The team of lecturers and facilitators comprises well-known professors, experts, and experienced legal practitioners from Europe, the United States and all over the world, specialized in the themes of the Institute and holding expertise on various aspects of the use of the international and regional human rights mechanisms for the protection of women’s rights. Alumni of the WHRTI are also involved as lecturers and facilitators.

Specific litigation and campaigning activities, conducting thematic legal research, and publications on women’s rights issues may be supported by Institute and will involve the participants between the sessions. The support will be provided by the BGRF and partner organizations, as well as by lecturers, lawyers and other experts related to the Institute.

The working language of the Institute is English, and this includes preparatory work, reading materials, training sessions, research tasks and intersessional assignments, and communication.

The same group of participants will be trained and will work together for the entire period of the Institute. The WHRTI sessions take place in Bulgaria; any intersessional sessions, assignments and communications will occur online.

The WHRTI encourages the development of professional connections and networks among women’s rights lawyers in the region. Alumnae of the Institute include over 140 lawyers from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Malawi, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. The alumnae of the Institute have established an informal network of women’s rights lawyers and many of them are at the forefront of teaching, litigating and advocating on women’s rights in their countries. A number of them have already undertaken women’s human rights litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and before the CEDAW Committee (under the Optional Protocol of CEDAW).

Organization and Planning of the training:

All three sessions will be announced about two months in advance in order to allow the participants to complete their preparatory work and travel planning for the session.

All intersessional reading materials, assignments and tasks will be distributed among all the participants at the same time and all the deadlines will be the same for all of them.

The participants will be provided with expert training mentors to help them during their training and for the preparationof their individual tasks.

All logistics are arranged and coordinated by the BGRF. Participants are kindly advised to contact the organizers in due time whenever an issue related to their participation and/or completion of the training tasks occurs.

Financial conditions:

The expenses related to the selected participants’ attendance in the sessions of the Institute are covered by WHRTI as follows:

Tuition fees: for the participants who have been selected and who are fulfilling their training tasks in due time; this includes training materials and additional literature related to the training curriculum of WHRTI.

Travel costs – airplane/train/bus tickets from the country of residence at the time of selection to and from Bulgaria. Reimbursement is based on the original receipts, tickets, and boarding passes. This includes transfer from and to the airport/railway station/ bus station at arrival and departure;

Hotel accommodation for the days of the training sessions and includes full board meals, including coffee breaks/or equivalent per diems for the days of the training sessions according to the announced agenda.

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