Thank You, Eleanor Roosevelt
Trent Gilliss, online editor
A sleepless night wandering about the Web delivered this 1949 photo of Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she considered her greatest legacy:
"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. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. 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."
After the act was passed on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly urged all nations “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions.”
I don’t recall a poster of the Declaration ever hanging in one of my classrooms. Ashamed to admit it, I know I’ve never even read the full text of this historic document — even though I’ve watched these videos from Andy’s 60th anniversary post. So I did, and it took me less than five minutes. Five minutes! And I’m 40 years old.
I’m struck by the richness of its language — “human family,” “universal respect,” “spirit of brotherhood,” “security of person” — as I read the news about Haiti and its people, the tumultuous debate about the rights and privileges extended to homosexual couples, or the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here are a few articles that especially resonated with me:
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 15. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
Article 16. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. … The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 26. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Article 29. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
Eleanor Roosevelt, chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, visits with Nasrollah Entezam, president of the fifth session of the General Assembly and Marian Anderson, American contralto, on Human Rights Day in 1950. (United Nations)
Portraits of Women from Kandahar
Trent Gilliss, online editor
The Behind the Veil project from The Globe and Mail got its start with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s endorsement of “a law that, among other things, allowed some men to demand sex from their wives.” What’s come of it is a compelling six-part series of multimedia reports exploring Afghani women’s issues, which they’re rolling out over the next week.
The timeline and reporter’s notebook are helpful and give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a female journalist reporting in restrictive conditions. But, watching ten women from Kandahar, ranging in age from 15 to 50, share their perspectives on their lives and the changing state of society is the real highlight. The overwhelming idea, despite the texture of the many ideas shared, is the basic need for safety and security. Without that sense of protection, all the aspirations and hopes for women’s rights and education falls prey to pragmatism of carrying on a daily existence.
Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.
The Human Scale
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
This December, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 60 years old, and the video above was released in preparation for that celebration. The UDHR (listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Translated Document” in the world) was drafted by the United Nations in response to the Second World War as a means of clearly defining what the UN hoped to protect — namely, the “equal and inalienable rights” that “all members of the human family” are entitled to.
I thought it was worth mentioning on the blog because the issue of human rights is a pretty important one at SOF; so much of what we do here is about taking larger ideas and bringing them down to the level of individual lives. Often issues that seem irreconcilable in their abstract form seem more managable when you hear the stories of those affected.
Case and point: our recent feature "Between the Polarized Extremes of Abortion." Looking through some of the thoughtful and heartfelt responses we received on this topic, I realized that for all of the rhetoric I’ve heard on this subject, I’ve rarely seen it dealt with on such a personal level. Your responses turned out to be refreshing and much-needed antidote to the political and cultural battling this issue tends to invoke.
It seems that if there is going to be any reconcilliation on the issue of abortion, it will probably come through an understanding of the individual lives that are affected by it. And while the UDHR has its critics (I imagine anything claiming to be “universal” would), to me it’s an important step in the right direction — a larger way of acknowledging the need to understand the world on a more human scale.
While doing a little research on this, I discovered that there is also an older (much longer) animation about the UDHR, sponsored by Amnesty International. The tone seems a little different in Amnesty’s video, and I thought it was worth including because, while it is pretty dated, it also strikes me as being a little bit more … well, human.