[PDHRE logo]
People's Decade of Human Rights Education

Hot Topics

Globalization: Human Rights in Trade & Investment

Seminars on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Build a Human Rights Community!


Organization Overview & Activities Report 1995-2000

Human Rights Conventions: Summaries


Current Projects

Sharing Methodology & Learning Materials

Dialogue & Discourse

Get Involved!

Related Links

Invitation for comments to develop the content and agenda of a Conference at the WSF:

"Transforming the Patriarchal Order to human rights System"

latest version (Feb. 2005) in Word

Position Paper


--- Proposing to develop a worldwide Campaign to Transcend Patriarchy, breaking through the vicious cycle of humiliation.

This paper is the second position paper on the subject and a call for the launching of a worldwide dialogue of transforming the patriarchal world order into one informed and energized by human rights. This is the central and crucial issues of gender equality and gender justice which are integral to all other major global concerns re economic and social justice. This position paper attempts to take into account the numerous suggestions received from more then 150 people from around the world on the significant elements that should be addressed. While it does not claim to include all the suggestions received, these were most helpful in the reformulation of a statement of principles and purposes which motivates PDHRE, People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning to facilitate the launching of this campaign.

We anticipate that many thoughtful, well informed persons will have additional and alternative interpretations of the issues, as well as, varying positions on actions to respond to conditions of human inequality. We do not present an extensive description and explanation of gender issues on which there is a major body of literature. Our purpose is to encourage the articulation of and reflection on all relevant interpretations and to catalyze action to overcome the underlying problems of patriarchy. Toward these ends we offer this invitation to participate in a campaign of intense discussion and dynamic action to transform the patriarchal world order into one informed and energized by human rights.

We are seeking the cooperation of community associations, NGOs, schools, universities and adult learning groups in a transformative learning process. We invite all to join us in an inquiry into the nature and manifestations of the mind set, behaviors and social institutions that have separated and maintained human inequality between women and men. Patriarchy, the most fundamental and universal form of human inequality has contributed to a general pattern of hierarchical organization of most social institutions and myriad forms of inequality among all human beings throughout the world.

PDHRE, an education and advocacy NGO working to assure that all human beings know of and have the capacity to claim their human rights, holds that this mind set, and its constituent behaviors and social institutions comprises contemporary forms patriarchy that deny true and complete human dignity to all men, women and children. We believe that through a process of human rights learning and action, societies can transcend patriarchy and bring forth an alternative mind set, behaviors and social institutions derived from the values and principles of human rights and guided and governed by the international standards that the world community has adopted toward their universal realization. The organization being a leader in the development of the world-wide movement for human rights education for social transformation is the one that has proposed and worked for the declaration of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004.)

2. Patriarchalism, a Major Obstacle to Universal Human Dignity

Patriarchy in its literal sense means the rule of the fathers. Having it roots in tribal society, it was institutionalized in post tribal societies into more complex religious, social and legal systems and formal governmental structures such as the senate of ancient Rome and most subsequent governments. The word senator derives from a Latin word meaning old man. Throughout recorded history in most human societies some form of patriarchy has prevailed, reinforced by cultural values derived from systems of male dominance. It has been so commonly and continually practiced as to appear natural rather than a humanly constructed social order that is both changing and changeable. In its present forms patriarchy has become more an ideology and belief system than the explicit social and political systems of earlier times. Even in countries where legal equality of women and men has been established, the deep psychological and cultural roots of patriarchy survive as a belief system in the minds of many women and men. We propose to call this belief system patriarchalism.

Patriarchalism asserts the superiority of all males to all females and arranges this fundamental inequality in a hierarchal order in which middle aged men now hold primary power over all others, controlling economies, militaries, educational and religious institutions. Men in general are more powerful and advantaged than women. Western men have more power in the global order than men from other world regions. Women of higher economic class have power over both men and women of lower income and poverty status. At the very bottom of this hierarchy are the vulnerable and oppressed of the world, most the aged, all children, and women; with most vulnerable being aged, poor women.

As a result of Western colonialism which in itself was as manifestation of patriarchalism, it is also implicated in the evolution of racism, holding that Caucasian Western peoples are superior to those whose origins lie in other world regions. In that even the most powerful suffer limits of choice and respect in these orders, all are denied human dignity. Indeed, patriarchal values and thinking intensifies and obscures solutions to most of the major problems that now threaten the health of the planet, ecological devastation, warfare and weaponry, racial, ethnic and religious conflict, poverty, disease and ever increasing political repression, even in the so called "democratic" states. All these threats are made the more complex and difficult to address because of the limits imposed on human capacities and creativity by the gendered power divisions that comprise patriarchalism. There is a vast literature in feminist and gender studies that clearly links elements of patriarchalism or sexism to all of these threats. We need not rehearse them here. However, it is important to acknowledge that PDHRE asserts that patriarchalism is the antithesis of the ideology of human rights and human rights is the core of an alternative belief system that can transcend the limits patriarchalism imposes on the realization of human possibilities and the enjoyment of human dignity. Further we assert that human rights standards can and should be brought to bear on all the global problems that threaten human survival and the quality of life of the majority of Earth’s peoples.

3. Human Rights, an Alternative Vision for Human Society

Most of the positive changes that have occurred in human society been inspired by the fundamental concepts and values that inform human rights, the inherent dignity of all human beings of both sexes, all races, ages, capacities, ethnicities, religions and nationalities. However, throughout history the vast majority of human beings have not enjoyed human rights.

While all human rights denials and violations are not consequences of patriarchy, many indeed are. Indeed, patriarchy has been the template of the authoritarian, elitist forms of social organization and governance that have tolerated, sanctioned or committed such systematic and perpetual human rights violations as sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression, and other such egregious insults to human dignity.

Concepts of human rights have emerged in the human mind and spirit, as an alternative to human suffering and degradation. Human rights has become a code phrase for a value system, human relationships and social organization grounded in the concepts of universal human dignity, human capacity to live together in justice and social responsibility to strive toward societies in which justice and order are equally valued and mutually reinforcing. In sum, human rights comprise a holistic vision of a transformed society in which men, women, youth and children live together in the relationships of respect that honor universal human dignity.

"Human rights" is the concept which informs a mind set that perceives social order not as an end in itself or the tool by which established powers maintain their dominance. It is rather the condition which permits the pursuit of social, economic and political justice by means other than coercion, intimidation, the force of arms or the imposition of dysfunctional or harmful cultural traditions. The spirit which informs the principles of and movements for human rights is one that aspires to convivial human societies in which men and women of various cultures, political and religious beliefs and different social systems can live together in mutual respect and cooperate in the struggle to overcome all the obstacles to human dignity which perpetuate the human suffering which characterizes the present world order and the societies which comprise it.

We believe that human rights are a set of principles to guide and mediate human affairs in ways which honor the human worth of all persons. The international human rights standards have been formulated and adopted by the world community as tools for social transformation toward a world guided by just law rather than the raw force which prevails in today global society.

4. Toward Transformation, Mapping the Presence and Patterns of Patriarchy and Planning Strategies for Change

Given the global problems and the obstacles to their resolution attributable to patriarchalism, the need now is to look into the specifics of how patriarchalism affects our daily lives, how it manifests itself, and how it influences the social, economic and political issues faced by our respective communities and our common global society. A worldwide inquiry at the community level into the specific ways in which patriarchalism affects individuals and communities in their daily lives, personal relationships, economic activities, education, creativity, political issues and structures and spiritual quests is an imperative. The understanding these specifics of patrirachalism is necessary, so that families, communities and nations can work together to overcome them. Differences and similarities in these conditions as they exist in all parts of the world must be investigated so as to have a better understanding of the global state of patriarchalism. These many local initiatives to examine and change the inequalities and injustices that prevent men and women for working together for their mutual benefit and for a more just social order will provide us with a global map of patriarchalism as the men and women of the world now experience it, in all its many, culturally varied manifestations.

We hope to facilitate the development of an inspired thinking and planning for culturally appropriate means to change the myriad and various forms the gender injustices, so that men and women everywhere can help each other to learn new ways of thinking, relating, developing their economies and making the political decisions that control their lives. The sum of these changes can lead us into a transformative process that can make possible the vision of a global order of human rights cultures in which human dignity is universally respected and realized by all members of the human family.

Toward this end we invite all who hope for a life of dignity to join in this effort to learn and act in a process of inquiry and strategizing. To begin the learning process we offer the following questions to guide the discussions and actions of community groups, NGOs, classrooms, labor unions, members of religious congregations and political parties, all groups who are engaged in common endeavors.

4. Human Rights Learning, Empowerment to Realize the Vision

Having taken the Initiative to facilitate the dialogue and the campaign, we look forward to be joined by many and varied organizations from around the world. Only together can we reach the multitudes of women and men to become meaningful partners in this discussion.

As our contribution we hope that human rights learning will inform the campaign to transform patriarchy. We offer our extensive experience in the initiation and implementation of human rights education at the community level, formal and informal learning. We have held vigorous discussion with human rights educators of all kinds, learning with them about the meaning and possibilities for human fulfillment and social advancement that lie in human rights, empowers people at all levels of society to conceive, struggle for and realize long sought enjoyment of human dignity.

Transformational form of learning produces inner change as well as outward capacities that empowers’ learners to bring changes in the social groups and structures of which they are a part. Human rights learning capacitate learners to function as agents of social justice so as to protect and implement human rights. Most effective forms of human rights learning are those which engage learners in the application of human rights principles to issues in their own lives.


FOR DISCUSSION: Questions to Discern and Describe Patriarchalism in Our Lives

1. How do members of the group experience gender relations in their family and personal lives?

How are family decisions made? How is work and leisure assigned and enjoyed? How are jobs and social activities chosen and arranged? What are the gender differences in these matters? Are the differences equally fair to women and men?

2. Do the traditions of your culture offer equal if different satisfactions to men and women? Are girl and boy babies welcomed with equal family pride, joy and community status for the parents? Are women who bear female children honored equally as those who bear male children? Do birth rituals and celebrations reflect equal value of both sexes?

3. Is schooling and any other form of education available to your group offered equally to boys and girls? Are there separate facilities for each? Are equal resources expended on both? When curricula are developed separately for boys and girls are both given education for full citizenship and equal educational opportunity?

4. Are men and women equally involved in the decisions about their own marriages? Do husband and wives have equal economic and political rights? In general is there gender justice and equality apparent in social and cultural life? Are entertainment, advertising, celebrations equally respectful of women and men? Do women and men have equal access to waged work? Can both choose the kinds of jobs they prefer? If the same jobs are open to both men and women, do they receive the same pay?*

5. What is the ratio of men to women in public offices, town or tribal councils in your community, and in the governmental bodies in your province and nation?* Are the interests and concerns of families given adequate consideration in policy and decision-making in all these bodies? Are the interests and concerns of men and women given equal consideration? Do some or all decisions favor one sex over the other? If so which decision and which is the favored sex? How do you determine what is favorable to one or both sexes, funds expended, gender consequences of the policies, relative satisfaction with public policy between women and men?

6. Do your country’s international delegations and representations have equal numbers of women and men? If there is equality does it apply to all subjects and issues addressed in international meetings and by international organizations?

7. What do the members of the group find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being a man or a woman in your culture and society? What would they most want to change in their own respective status and that of the other? What person and/or what institutions would have to affect the changes? What can each individual do to plan, encourage and work for the change?

8. For each of these areas of life that have gender aspects, select indicators from your responses that reflect elements of patriarchalism and list them as indicators, assessing how severe each is. Which are most in need of change? Which seem most changeable and why? Which ones might the members of your group be able to change or begin a change process? Which ones will require institutional or legal change?

9. Review UDHR and CEDAW to determine which of your indicators are actually violations of human rights?

10. Plan a strategy to overcome the problems and implement the human rights of your group that are being violated by patriarchalism. Use the matrix to record the indicators, the rights violated and your strategies to protect and implement the rights.

Please send your comments, a copy of your matrix and a record of your most important human rights learning to minar_p@yahoo.com and pdhre@igc.org . Thank you for joining this important and exciting initiative.


For more information, please contact PDHRE:
The People's Movement for Human Rights Learning, 526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325; e-mail: pdhre@igc.org