December is Universal Human Rights Month and December 10th is Human Rights Day, a day devoted to the recognition of Human Rights. This day commemorates the day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This year, more than ever, we must stand up and recognize this important event. The pandemic has brought to the forefront inequality on many levels. The COVID-19 crisis has been fueled by deepening poverty, systemic racism and rising inequalities. In fact the theme of Human Rights Day this year is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights” knowing that we work best by working together and creating equal opportunities for all.
I find it interesting that this international celebration recognizing human rights was declared in 1948, just three short years after the end of World War II, the end of nazi death camps, the end of Japanese imprisonment in “internment camps” the end of many atrocities that war brings. This may have been the height of crimes against humanity. Have we as an international community, seen improvement in the past 72 years? Of course we have, but we still have so far to go.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which led to Human Rights day said,
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
So, what can you do to promote Human Rights Day on December 10th and every day? Here are some ideas:
Become familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An illustrated, abbreviated edition of the document can be found here. As I read the document, keeping in mind that it comes from an international organization, I was struck by how far we have to go here in the U.S. and in countries around the world.
Watch a film
Raise your awareness by watching a movie that focuses on human rights issues. This link will give you some options.
Start a book discussion club
Read books as a group that educate you about systemic racism and discrimination that’s prevalent in societies around the world, and then discuss them afterwards. That’s what I did. We meet once a month and I have learned so much from the books we’ve read as well as the discussion afterwards.
When you hear someone say something that is racist or derogatory, stand up and speak out. When you are choose to remain silent, you are complicit.
Join a local group working to ensure human rights for all. If you can’t find a local group, start one. And then meet or write letters to your congressional representatives, write articles as a group to your local paper and find other ways to bring human rights violations to the collective consciousness.
Choose fair trade and ethically made goods made by companies that take care of their employees by paying a fair wage and providing a safe working environment. Speaking of environment, look for companies that take care of mother earth as well, because that’s a good way to take care of humankind.
Stay current on the issues
Use the internet to keep up with the news as it pertains to human rights. Human Rights Watch is a good one for that.