11 Human Rights Education for Social Transformation: Innovative Grassroots Programs on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Shulamith Koenig

To appear in David Barnhizer, ed., Effective Strategies for Protecting Human Rights: Prevention and Intervention, Trade and Education (Ashgate Publishing, forthcoming December 2001)

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My Name is Shulamith. In Hebrew "Shulamith" means: a woman of Jerusalem, a woman of peace. The Biblical Jerusalem was called Yru’shalem, the people will see wholeness, synonymous with peace–Shalom. A woman of Jerusalem is called Shulamith.

I speak of my name because it has a deep meaning to the commitments I have made to promote human rights education at the community level worldwide. Having lived in the outskirts of Jaffa, my parents had owned jointly a metal foundry with an Arab family. I used to play with their children, which was quite unusual at the time and unfortunately it is still unusual today for Jewish Israeli children to play with Arab Israeli children. Having had this experience I was very uncomfortable with what I was taught at school that the Jews are the "The Chosen people." "What about our Arab friends?" I asked my father who was a talmudic scholar. "Yes–he said–you are chosen for social responsibility–for Tikum Olam" (mending the world).

In the early fifties, I had the honor to accompany a group of young Jesuit students to a meeting with Martin Buber. One of them, after listening to this wise man said, timidly: "Professor Buber, allow me to ask you a stupid question: When will there be peace in the world?" Smiling, Buber answered: "There are no stupid questions my son, only stupid answers. Allow me to give you one: If one morning every women and

women alive will say to the first person they meet that day ‘Good Morning’ and mean it, this will be the first morning of peace."


Holistic Learning about Human Rights

These are several of the narratives, from many years ago, that inform my world view and the commitments I have undertaken to energize, organize and facilitate transformative, holistic learning about human rights at the community level–using the narratives of struggle and hope as a powerful tool for learning, reflecting and acting; for people to become agents of change and achieve social justice, equality and full participation–of women and men alike–in human, social and economic development.

The Biblical narrative was very important to our education in Israel. Especially the "forty years in the desert" where Moses and Aaron, guided by the commitment to "Kdushat Ha’chayim"–the sanctity of the life of all human beings–appointed judges and established courts that through the processes of litigation enunciated egalitarian laws in the spirit of the Ten Commandments and as relevant to people’s daily lives. Unfortunately these laws considered mostly men–ignoring half of humanity. Yet, this is a story of building a nation of law and justice in the desert–guiding people in how to move from slavery to freedom with social responsibility. This story became my guiding light, illuminating a fundamental principle: law without freedom is tyranny and freedom without law is anarchy and the fine balance between law and freedom is sustained and energized by human rights to enable us to break through the vicious cycle of humiliation.

In the mid 1980s, coming to live in the United States after being called a traitor in Israel for promoting a two–state solution to the Arab–Israeli conflict, I established the People’s Decade for Human Rights Education, recently renamed: PDHRE, People’s Movement for Human Rights Education. I made this commitment to fulfill the promise Israel made to the world but had so tragically neglected

I am convinced that through learning about human rights as a way of life, people develop systemic analysis and are empowered to take action and insist on fully participating in the decisions that determine their lives. Since 1998, PDHRE has been introducing transformative, holistic human rights education in more than 60 countries at the community level. I am very proud to say that as part of this process I was instrumental in the UN declaring a Decade for Human Rights Education, for the period 1995–2004.

Being convinced that imposed ignorance is by itself a human rights violation, I argued that fundamental change can be brought about only if every person alive will know that he or she are owners of human rights–that all must become human rights educators, human rights monitor and implementers from generation to generation.


Being in Community in Dignity with Others

In the last two years, to achieve the objectives we had set for ourselves, PDHRE has initiated a historic development: the establishment of "Human Rights Cities". To date there are seven cities that have joined this effort. PDHRE is also developing four Regional Learning Institutions for Human Rights Education in South Asia, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa, guided by the prophetic statement of Nelson Mandela: "We need to develop a new political culture based on Human Rights." Through workshops, seminars and dialogue we hope to contribute to a new vocation: human rights education. The goal is to stimulate and train community leaders and educators who will join our commitment to influence a new generation to assume political leadership and be guided by the holistic human rights framework as a viable political ideology for the 21st century.

In that context human rights comprise the guideline and framework for social responsibility–being in community in dignity with others. I must stress here that I do not agree with a perspective that seems to me to be an artificial division between two kinds of human rights: individual rights and community rights. I feel very strongly that this odd separation is a left-over from the Cold War, which contributed to the statement of many in the South who often say: "human rights promote western values that are imposed on us!" Indeed, all human beings in every culture are individuals, but we all live in communities of one kind or another. It is this "living together"–the life of every individual living in community, which human rights define, promote and protect. Equality, discrimination, violations and realization, all happen for better or worse in community–in the relationship between people and amongst groups horizontally and vertically.

For this very same reason and to make sure that learners understand human rights as a holistic framework and a way of life, I insist of speaking on "the human rights to…" rather than "the rights to…" In my experience, using the words, "human rights" rather than "rights," informs the learners that human rights are the birthright of all humanity, as Professor Upendra Baxi says: human rights are the right to be human. With this inclusive vision we accept human beings–women, men, youth and children alike–as whole beings, endowed with the tools of justice, i.e. human rights. Furthermore, speaking of "human rights" rather than of "rights" enables the learner to understand the indivisibility, interrelatedness and interconnectedness of civil, cultural, economic, political and social human rights. The insight gained by the learners is invariably followed by advocacy and actions for gender equality and economic and social justice–be it with their governing bodies or within their communities "free of fear and free from want".


A Universal Value System Protected by Law

Human rights inform a universal value system protected by law. In this context it is important to call attention to the fact that the two major human rights instruments are called "Covenants"! In my perception they are covenants with morality, advocating a higher state of being in community, in dignity, with trust, or if you wish, with unconditional love.

We are all aware of the fact that human rights reflect the aspirations and hopes of humanity from its early beginning. So do the prophecy and teaching of most religions. The downside is that all religions are in essence patriarchal, which is a perspective that human rights attempt to change for women and marginalized groups–the "unwanted" others. It should be therefore understood that human rights do not deny religion but simply widen and enrich religion by recognizing women, the excluded and subordinated "others" as equal members of humanity.

In the last fifty years the struggles of people for economic and social justice fueled and invigorated the development of international human right law. This included women who were fighting to eliminate discrimination. They were insisting on the right to participate as equals in the decisions that determine their lives; the advocacy to change harmful conditions in which children grow; the endless shameful discrimination and racism throughout the world; and the criminal acts of torture. These were carefully attended to in various and detailed human rights conventions, each reflecting the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two covenants.

These enunciations of human rights are not always perfect. They are often not detailed enough, but they are perfect in their call for justice–for a world guided by human rights. Even if from today on no new convention or resolution is added to this excellent overarching body of international law and we attend only to the implementation of human rights as encoded to date—and if from today on we demand that our governments stand by all the commitments they have made and the obligations they have undertaken in the international arena–we will be close to having a perfect world.

To achieve this dream it is our responsibility first to take action to have all people know human rights and have them join in "reminding" governments, and if necessary shame them–by holding them accountable to the many "Plans of Action" they have signed on to, the Conventions and Covenants they have ratified, undertaking a clear obligation for human rights to become the law of the land.

What is tragic in my eyes is that the people in struggle for whom the human rights were encoded and whose oppressions, impoverishment and pain the system of human rights is meant to alleviate, do not know that human rights exist nor do they understand the power and meaning of human rights for their lives.

In the hope of changing this unfortunate and very sad situation we made the commitment to develop a movement for human rights education. In essence human rights education is about hope and learning about justice. It is about people transforming systems in which differences are liabilities into systems where differences and diversity bring joy and richness to our lives. But mostly, human rights education is political education that leads to people taking active part in their own economic and social development.


Connecting Human Rights with People’s Lives

Human rights education must not be theoretical, but relevant to people’s daily lives. People learn from their own narratives to conceptualize human rights and work towards their fulfillment. Only then can we become agents of change.

In our workshops we ask people to define human rights and all they say is written on large sheets of paper, which are hung along the walls. The results are amazing. They reinvent the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their wording is often better and less abstract. Through play–acting they obtain insight into the relationship between men and women and are frequently embarrassed about how they participate directly and indirectly in strengthening systems in favor of the privileged and against the underprivileged. When we work with children and speak about the human rights to education we first point out that by having a school their human rights are being realized–but if they do not have enough books or the roof of the school is leaking, this is a human rights violation that must be corrected. We try always to first discuss human rights realization followed by analyzing human rights violations. We believe that this contributes to people moving from being victims to becoming claimants of human rights.

In our human rights education workshops we try to bring up to par the participants’ understanding about economic, social and cultural human rights with political and civil human rights. The facts we share with villagers that food, housing, education, healthcare and the opportunity to have work at livable wages are human rights have them jump with joy. Almost instantly they start planning how to claim these human rights as a necessary and integral consequence of the development process. People have told us in many words that poverty is a human rights violation; that not only freedom fighters imprisoned by their government are political prisoners but that those who live in economic degradation are political prisoners as well, i.e. "prisoners" of bad political and economic management and destructive decisions.


PDHRE’s Human Rights Workshops

Allow me to share with you several short stories about human rights education. The imperatives of our methodology is drawn from the teaching of the famous Brazilian education theorist Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. From their own narratives of oppression and struggles people learn what actions they must take to transform their lives and the life of their community.

A. Costa Rica

In a workshop we held in Costa Rica women were introduced to the fundamental concept of human rights as protecting and prompting theirs and insisting on the dignity of others. We then asked the women to each share with the group one human rights violations and one human rights realization which they have experienced in their lives. A woman, 53 years old, said: "First I want to speak about a violation. I was 13 years old and I was made to marry the man who raped me." You may know that in several Latin American countries if the man agrees to marry the woman he raped, he is exonerated. She continued: "I am now 53 years old and I just went back to school to finish my studies. I am now realizing my human rights." In those two sentences she analyzed her life within a human rights framework. We knew right then and there that she had learned to examine her life from a human rights perspective and that she will continue to do so for the rest of her life and teach it to her grandchildren.

Introducing the holistic vision of human rights in our workshops we discuss Article 30 of the UDHR, stating in our words its important message: No one human right can be used to justify violating another human rights. We have people then identify the human rights of others that may potentially come into conflict with their rights. When asked "how can these conflicts can be resolved?" we answer "all conflicts must be resolved within a human rights framework."

B. South Africa

Outside Durban, in South Africa, we invited 10 families from the Zulu community, 10 men, 10 women and their teenage children, to help us learn how to introduce human rights in their communities. First, my colleague and I, she is a local community activist who has been trained by PDHRE, held a discussion about dignity and how the new democracy is effecting change in their lives. I then took the 10 men out to a close by road and asked them to stand on the road, facing, in their "memory", the white policemen who used to come to the village. I asked them to talk about how they felt and what were the human rights violations inflicted on them by the whites. Together, we defined the human rights violations that were inflicted on them because of the color of their skin, and proceeded to write them down one by one on large sheets of paper. "Now," I said, "when apartheid is over what kind of relations do you want to have with the whites who are coming down your streets?" At this point we were defining the expressed hopes in terms of human rights realizations, continuing to write them one by one on white sheets of paper.

We then returned to the room where the women and the children were learning about how human rights as it relates to their lives. We pasted the sheets of paper on the wall face down. I asked the children to go with my colleague to another room to discuss how human rights help secure and enrich the lives of children. I asked the men to sit on one side of the room and the women to sit across the room, facing them. I then asked the women to tell the men about the human rights violations they suffer because they are women, and proceeded to ask: "what human rights do you hope to fulfill in the relationship with men? " As the women spoke, one–by–one, we filled up new blank sheets of paper with the descriptions of their struggles and hopes, writing what they said in a human rights language. The embarrassment of the men became quite apparent. The women’s pain was the same as the men’s. The women’s hopes for fulfillment were also strikingly similar to the men’s. The insight men had gained when we asked them to uncover what they wrote and show it to the women was obvious and often funny, accompanied with a giggle. If they could, the men would have gladly become invisible. The beauty and power of this lesson is that nothing further had to be said by us to the men. They had said all that was necessary. It was all there on the wall.

We asked the children to join us and asked them the same questions as to their relationship with their parents. The parents recognized their own voices in the narratives of their children, listening to the desires for respect, equality and partnership in dignity.

It became obvious to all the participants that the vicious cycle of humiliation can be broken if they learn about human rights and mentor others to demand equality and to eliminate discrimination. Someone said that human rights are all they have hoped for. Others spoke of trust and being human with one another, women and men alike.

C. Senegal

The practice of FGC – female genital cutting – is indeed a gross human rights violation. Many to stop this practice, without any significant result, are doing much work. However, TOSTAN, a Senegalese grassroots organization, has worked for many years with women in the villages introducing them to democracy, literacy, health, participation, and human rights. In 1997 the breakthrough happened as a result of human rights education.

I met Molly Melching, the Director of TOSTAN in Germany, at a UNESCO conference on adult education where she participated in a PDHRE workshop on human rights education for social transformation. She was very excited about our approach and shared with me the following amazing story, clearly affirming that when people develop a sense of ownership of human rights meaningful change can occur. This her story:

" In July 1997 the women of Malicounda, Bambara, have made up their minds.  They will no longer practice FGC on the young girls of the village! How did a group of African women from an ethnic group, which has practiced FGC for thousands of years, have the courage to stand up and say "no more" to such an ingrained tradition?  How did they convince other members of their community, particularly the men and the older women who fight to preserve Bambara traditions?  The women of Malicounda had begun to change as a result of their participation in the TOSTAN/UNICEF/Government of Senegal Basic Education Program in national language. They started thinking and talking about things they had never discussed before, things that had always been 'taboo'.  In Module 1, the women worked on problem solving. In Module 2 they learned about germs and the spread of disease… --they studied Human Rights in the module on Women's Health and particularly the right to health…--actually, the program gave them confidence that they could change things if they wanted to…-- they learned that human right implies the freedom of each woman to decide for herself what she does with her body…-- the right to preserve thier body without mutilation or changes…--they talked with thier husbands who understood thier concerns.  Encouraged by their husbands support they created a theater about Human Rights that included messages on the dangers of female circumcision. They went to all the neighborhoods in the village and invited the village midwife to these sessions too. She was also convinced. After only several months, the women of Malicounda, had agreed to stop the ceremonies for this year and indeed to forever.  An older woman said at one of the meeting: ‘We old women were the ones who insisted that all the girls be circumcised!  But in the class I learned about universal human rights.  Did you know that every man and woman have the right to marry and live their lives according to their own beliefs? --I realized I could no longer impose my will on my children and grandchildren." The village chief present at the discussion said: ‘I'm not a member of the class, but I support the women's decision…’ The women said: ‘we've made our decision!  We're going to stop female circumcision in Malicounda…-- we became aware that we could make a difference in the world. If our culture violates our human rights, we want a human rights culture."

I also learned from Molly that
French television came to interview the people of the village. A little girl was running in front of the cameras. Her mother called out to her: "Sensen, Sensen. Come here!". "What does Sensen mean?" the Cameraman asked. "Human Rights" answered the mother with pride. "Why do you call her human rights?" the cameraman asked again. "Because she is the first girl in the village that was not circumcised" the mother answered. Men and women alike declared an end to FGC in front of the camera, quoting the language of human rights. Pride accompanied their recognition that the international community had also acknowledged what they believe to be decent and correct. These are norms and standards that they now accepted as their own. These very same women in the village of Malikunda came several weeks later to their husbands, requesting parcels of land to grow vegetables. They said to their husbands: "Land is a human right" and they got the land."

Listening to Molly I was convinced again, as was evident to me through our work, that men must fully understand: to protect their own human rights they must protect the human rights of women. I believe, when people internalize the notion that human rights belongs to all it provides them with a safe ground for negotiation…--the only way they can relate to one another.

I suggested to Molly to consider introducing the holistic human rights framework through all the modules. At Molly’s request, within a few days of my return we sent to Senegal quotations of commitments and obligations regarding the issues of health and women. This was our first small contribution. It is on the foundation that TOSTAN has build that enabled PDHRE to promote with Molly and also support the development of 10 human rights cities and now in its third year, Thies as a Human Rights City. I visited the City several times and joined with my colleague Kathleen Modrowski in holistic training of trainers with human rights city neighborhoods, facilitators. Learning about the action being taken as a part of developing a human rights city, I knew in my heart that people all over the world would make the correct choices if they will learn about human rights as related to their lives. I like to describe the reaction and action people take after learning that they and all others are owners of human rights as moving power to human rights.


Human Rights Cities

Human Rights Cities, which we have initiated, are developed by us and our colleagues from around the world. The goal is to use these experiences to create and ensure a multiplier/ripple effect in larger communities, i.e., The Human Rights Cities and the Regional Learning Institutions for Human Rights Education where learners will work to proliferate the development of such Human Rights Cities.

To date, seven cities are pioneering the development of Human Rights Cities through mass education in human rights. These cities are: Rosario, Argentina (Pop. 1,000,000, program is in its 3rd year); Nagpur, India (pop. 2.8 million, program is in its second year). It named itself a human rights sensitive city. Thies, Senegal (pop. 300.000, including 10 human rights villages, is in its 2nd year) Kati, Mali, (pop. 50,000, program inaugurated on Dec.10, 2000), Dinajpur, Bangladesh, (pop. 100,000, to be inaugurated in the coming few months); Graz, Austria, whose City Council voted recently to declare their city a human rights city, the first in Europe; and, soon to be chosen, is an Indigenous Human Rights City in the Philippines.

The African Regional Institution was established in Bamako, Mali in November 2000. The South Asian Regional Institution will be inaugurated in August 2001, in Mumbai, India. Plans are now being drawn to establish the Latin American Regional Institution in Rosario, Argentina, and the Asia Pacific Regional Institution in Manila, Philippines toward the end of 2001. At the outset the institutions will engage in extensive research and curriculum development with its future faculty, and the adaptation of the necessary materials to local languages and regional concern. Thereafter, the institutions will hold six–week seminars including: in–depth training of trainers; development of methodology and strategy; and capacity building for implementing human rights education programs for social and economic transformation.

Learners will participate in intensive studies about human rights, political economy, sociology, and community development. The conditions for their participation will include a commitment to undertake the development of human rights education in their countries and collaborate to reach ever–wider constituencies—to weave a new political culture based on human rights.

In a human rights city a process is set for citizens to examine the laws, policies, development resources and the ongoing relationships in their city, horizontally and vertically. Argentina, Senegal, Mali, Bangladesh, India and Austria, where human rights cities are being developed, all ratified most of the Covenants and Convention with very few reservations. But most of the people in these countries do not have the vaguest idea of the obligations governments undertake when ratifying human rights treaties and how, if implemented, they can make a difference to their lives, the life of their community and of future generations. Thus, in each of these cities its citizenry learn and examine the laws and policies, continuously monitor them and take actions to see that their judicial system abides by the human rights framework. As part of this process a documentation center is created to map the human rights realizations and violations in the city, which then informs their action, demanding changes in laws and policies and developing alternative budget for the city. In every city one can find groups that may fight to improve the healthcare in the city or the educational system, or the delivery of clean water, etc. The alternative budget comes to replace compartmentalized activities of one group or another. It consolidates and unifies actions through lobbying for a budget to fulfill the human rights needs of all the people.

We believe that this is the best form of participation contributing to the understanding of people why economic, social and cultural human rights cannot but be realized progressively. This process makes people responsible partners in the development of their city and to short and long–term allocation of funds.

Last but not least is the creation of "relationships". This relationship–building manifests itself in the change of attitudes toward religious freedom, police behavior in the community, and greater acceptance of marginalized groups, to mention just a few. Groups, as well as individual and various other stakeholders work to create an atmosphere of communication–overcoming fears, xenophobia, and homophobia.

In a visit to Rosario I met with the head of the Police Academy where policemen and policewomen were participating in intensive human rights workshops. They learn about their human rights as well of those they are to police. With much satisfaction of the evident results in the attitudes to and of the police, he said: "These workshops convinced me that there is no other option but human rights." Later in the year I shared this statement with the Governor of Thies, Senegal. His response was, " I will put up this statement in my office and all over the city." The activities and actions taking place in each of the Human Rights Cities can be found on our website: http://www.pdhre.org.

There is much more to share in promoting the cause of human rights education, as an imperative for women and men participating in assuring the sustainability of human rights, economic development and social justice. However, if human rights learning does not result in a systemic analysis and viable actions we educators will be known as well–meaning people but not as people who are making a difference in the real world.

To make this difference through human rights education in post-war situations where tragic violations have been committed within countries, any negotiation must include a clear statement about the dignity of both sides who participated in the conflict and the negotiated statement must be used to set the guidelines for resolving future differences before they flare up into new armed conflicts. Wars are a terrible part of the human experience. It is our hope that sharing the human rights vision actively and proactively, as it is reflected in international law, we may take the first step for dealing with conflicts in a different way.



To sum up what human rights education for social transformation represents, I will say again: It is political education that holds within it a spiritual mission. It is recognizing that the root of all human rights violations in all societies is the absence of equality between women and men and non–discrimination. It may sound very simplistic, which I pride myself on being, when I say that women and men alike, born into and living in a prevalent Patriarchal system, take for granted that it is "normal" and "human" for some people to be more privileged then others, and some to enjoy power and deny equality to others. In short, they come to accept injustice as justice. Moreover, people are ready to exchange equality for survival. Learning about human rights as a holistic way of living with others in a condition of equality and lack of discrimination is the first step towards changing a system that inherently advocates discrimination and leads to oppression and gross human rights violations.

To end this long discourse in arguing the imperatives of human rights learning, I would like to share with you two experience: One with 300 children in Rosario, Argentina, and the second one in a village in Tamil Nadu, India.

In Rosario, at the outset I asked one boy and one girl to be "cars on the road". I asked another boy and girl to be "pedestrians on a crossroad." I told them: "When I say go! You all go forward." "Go!’ I cried out. They moved vigorously and bumped into each other, falling down while all the other children were clapping and laughing. "What happened?" I asked. "You didn’t tell us to watch the green and red lights." "And what was the result?" I asked. " They were all hurt and maybe killed" they answered. "Did it matter if the driver was a boy or a girl–or if the pedestrians were women or men?" I asked. "NO! NO! they all cried out. "Why do we need traffic regulation?" I asked. " Because we need to know when we can go and we need to stop… so we don’t get hurt." one of the girls said. "This is why we need laws", I said, "these laws are called human rights which enable us to move from place to place without being hurt or hurting others."

I then asked them if they wanted to try and say what are the human rights we need after such an accident happens and for other children not to be hurt. I got amazing answers. Here are some of them: "We need Hospitals to take the people who were hurt."–"A house to get to once we get tired or it starts raining"; "Medicine and food to get well", "Our parents need to work so they can build a house and buy us food" "We need education so that we can read the traffic signs" "It doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl. We are all equals." etc. etc. They have succinctly enumerated their wishes for moving in the world without being hurt. They created a holistic human rights framework and an understanding of the need for human rights laws to protect their lives and allow them to move in the world as equals.

In a village outside Chennai (formerly Madras) a group of fifty women and men welcomed me with flowers in a room smaller then your office. I didn’t speak much and had them tell me what they know about human rights, the caste system in India, and their hopes for social and economic transformation. The issue that emerged most potently was the lack of good education in the village, which is so necessary, as they say, to overcome the vicious cycle of humiliation in which the Dalit people are trapped. They did talk about the efforts of their government and State through the "positive discrimination" act, enacted to meet the educational needs of the Dalit people. They felt, however, that they were not being consulted and that the process is bad.

In a moment of truth I had an insight and asked: "How many people are in the village?" I was told: "One thousand." I then asked them if it will be possible for each one in the village, young or old, to contribute just one rupee a day towards the improvement of their educational facilities and to hire better teachers. The response was unanimous "YES!" We did the calculation and realized that in one year they would have 360,000 rupees! "Could this help?" I asked and suggested: "you can request from the local authorities to co–finance the effort." With us in the room was my host, a Dalit lawyer who introduced himself to them and offered to help in this effort. Before leaving we all chanted together: "We want our human rights! We want education for our children!"

By next morning a delegation from the village appeared, unannounced, at my friend’s office in Chennai, requesting from him to incorporate an association of the village to start this effort. And more, they had told him that they are going to reach out to fifty additional Dalit villages in the area to do the same and contribute one rupee a day for the human rights needs in their villages, and possibly collaborate to create better education and health care for all of these villages.

I must stress that during the one–hour village meeting we spoke about patriarchy and the double discrimination Dalit women suffer in their own communities. We talked of how they can work together to overcome the discrimination against women, which will contribute towards Dalit men achieving their human rights realizing human rights for the village. This was accepted very well with very interesting comments about equality, the difficulty of being a Dalit man, and the issues of the "differences" between women and men in general.

I hope that I was able to argue successfully the importance of human rights education for social and economic transformation. If those who read this chapter actively join in the activities of this movement I believe we can make a difference and we can be instrumental in changing the world. It is indeed a human rights violation of huge dimensions if women, men, youth, and children around the world do not know the meaning of human rights to their lives.

I know that as human rights and humanitarian law experts and activists we are forced by the horrendous situations to try and eradicate the symptoms of violence, hate and deprivation. Indeed, human rights violations must stop today! However, working on symptoms we create human solidarity but adding to our work the examination and analysis of causes we stand a chance to create social change. This examination and analysis must take place among the people for them to move from being victims of human rights to become active claimants of their human rights. After all it is for the people that human rights were enunciated. In this work we must bring up to par the understanding of economic, social, and cultural human rights with political and civil rights. It is important to repeat: It is high time that we all agree that people who live in dire poverty are political prisoners, and children who are hungry are on death row.

I implore all human rights experts, academic human rights scholars, and human rights advocates: as you continue to do your extremely valuable work make a commitment to give several weeks a year to live in villages in the South and facilitate the learning about human rights with communities who need it the most. Human rights are the banks of the river within which life can flow in freedom and dignity. As a Jewish sage once said: "The material needs of my neighbors are my spiritual needs."


© Shulamith Koenig and Ashgate Publishing Company, 2001. Shulamith Koenig is Executive Director of PDHRE.


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