What is a right? Let’s talk about what is right and what is wrong. More specifically, let’s talk about Human Rights. Should a person be denied their human right due to the colour of their skin? Their gender? Their sexuality, or even their nationality? The answer is no. 

‘All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms’ – UDHR 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document agreed by the United Nations (UN), which recognises that every person in the world is born with, and therefore entitled to, their rights and freedoms. Sadly, inequalities within our world mean that we are not all able to access our human rights equally. If you live in a society where you are able to access your human rights, don’t take them for granted. Let them empower you, so that you may help to empower the people who are vulnerable, oppressed and unable to access rights and freedoms which belong to them by law. Help to promote and defend them for yourself as well as your fellow human beings. There are 30 rights listed in the UDHR for every human being. Do you know your rights? Learn more here: www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR

Every day all around the world, injustices are happening to innocent people. People who are entitled to, but don’t have access to their rights due to factors such as state corruption, oppression, dictatorship or simply a lack of state regulation or education. Due to these factors, cases of inequality and injustice lead to human rights abuses and human rights violations. So if you don’t know your rights, you won’t know whether they’re being violated. So I please urge you to ‘know your rights' - but remember, with every right comes a responsibility! 

One way of promoting human rights is through holding a rights-based approach to development. This approach enables organisations, both national and international, to achieve a positive transformation of power relations between various actors in development. Rights based approaches allow the capacity of duty bearers to strengthen, alongside empowering the rights holders themselves. For example…

- Zimbabwe: Progressio ICS work with a partner organisation called Simukai Child Protection Program, in Zimbabwe. One of the institutions that ICS volunteers are working with, called Lowden Lodge, is a school for children with both mental and psychical disabilities. Teaching these children about disability rights and awareness will not only increase their knowledge, but will also enable them to thrive in confidence, knowing their rights in society, and protect them from vulnerability.

- Around the world: In Australia, a Human Rights Commission enquiry found 45% of Australians living with disabilities live near the poverty line, with inadequate safeguards and poor access to support. People with disabilities are often marginalised or discriminated against. Raising awareness about disability rights should prevent discrimination; allowing children and vulnerable adults all over the world to no longer be deprived of the opportunities that others enjoy. So as I mentioned previously, let’s stand together to protect our rights as well as the rights of other human beings. 

So what actions have you taken recently in support of human rights, or what actions could you take in the future? There are so many ways to act; personally, locally, nationally and globally. People every day around the world are taking the smallest of actions which have the potential to make the biggest changes in the future. For example…

- Zimbabwe: Progressio ICS work with various stakeholders, partner organisations and institutions in Mutare, Zimbabwe, to reach as many children and adults as possible, teaching them about the importance of human rights and responsibilities. Every child participating in sessions seems enlightened, empowered and uplifted from knowing their rights; being proud in their education and respectful of their responsibilities in return!

- Around the world: The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti, similarly rich in beauty, yet their riches vastly differ economically. With the DR stable in a thriving economy, Haitians have suffered natural disasters, along with an economic and financial crisis. An estimated one million Haitians live in the DR, most of them are undocumented immigrants working in agriculture and construction. People of Haitian decent, who were born and have lived in the DR all their lives are still not recognised as citizens. No documentation = no rights. Imagine being born into a country you believe you belong to, only to be told you are invisible? That you have no rights; no education, no health services, no passport and no legal protection? People of Haitian decent are contributing to the DR economy just like any other citizen, yet still receive prejudice and are discriminated against. This is just one of the examples as to why the UDHR states that all human beings are born with ‘equal and inalienable rights’, one of these being the right to an Identity. So, we need to stand together to protect our rights as well as the rights of other human beings!

Let me conclude my heart felt blog fuelled with energy, zest for life and empowerment with the following comparison…

- Zimbabwe: As I write to you now, fully embracing and appreciating my right of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I am proud to know that I live in a society where my voice is not only heard, but respected. What's more, I practice my responsibility of respecting other people’s opinions and beliefs. For if you do not respect the beliefs of others, do not expect others to respect yours - treat others how you would want to be treated.

- Around the world: In comparison, however, a leading human rights group in Cambodia, LICADHO, was forced to cancel its annual International Human Rights Day events for the first time in 20 years due to the prohibitive conditions imposed by the government. NGOs have come under increasing scrutiny after a law was passed requiring all NGOs to report their activities and finances to the government, with the threat of the dissolution of organisations. This links to my previously mentioned factor, stating that human rights abuses may take many forms and rights may be violated in many different ways. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are imperative to the world we live in today. Your voice has the power to affect change, make people listen! So open your ears and raise your voices, tell everyone that you know your rights and that you will stand up to protect your rights, as well as the rights of other human beings!

Let’s always remember that with every right comes a responsibility. So let’s take responsibility to respect each other and never deny others their human rights. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world and fight for our Human Rights.

Written by ICS Team Leader Veronica Tarasiewicz

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