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“Breaking Through the Vicious Cycle of Humiliation: Strategies for Racial Justice Through Human Rights Education.”

Durban, September 1, 2001

[en español]

At the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), PDHRE held a one-day workshop on “Breaking Through the Vicious Cycle of Humiliation: Strategies for Racial Justice Through Human Rights Education.” Below is the concept paper of the workshop.

Concept paper.


We are all born into a world where some people have privileges and use them to dominate and exclude others: women/men, minority groups/privileged, children/adults, poor/rich. At the same time, in order to challenge white supremacy, inequality and discrimination in all its forms, our analysis must not only be comprehensive but also provide solutions for healing. Based on our experience, human rights education is a tool that helps us begin to see how the patterns of oppression shape our ideology and behaviors. Moreover, human rights education helps us focus on our commonality as human beings rather then our differences. We are convinced that we will not be able to advance social and racial justice agendas stemming for the World Conference
unless we begin to seek changes in ourselves and systemic changes in society.

Because of the limiting nature of inter-governmental processes we have not come together to unveil those occasions when we ourselves, and our communities -even our marginalized communities- are victimized by and contribute to injustice, hierarchy and discrimination. We feel that exclusion and acts of humiliation must be acknowledged and confronted in all their forms.

Breaking through the vicious cycle of humiliation means that the oppressed must confront their oppressors. They must uphold dignity and freedom of all in relation to their struggles or else they run the risk of perpetuating a vicious cycle of humiliation, where they themselves become the new “oppressor.” In other words they become victimized violators.

In order to combat sexism and racism, as inter-dependent, we must develop a strategy to reveal and confront the patriarchal core. In this context, we must map out the effects of patriarchy and racism so that everyone takes on some responsibility for oppressive behaviors. We look at patriarchy as the system that triggers other forms of supremacy, hierarchy and exploitation. We do not think that patriarchy, is a unique form of supremacy that works everywhere in the same way. We do believe, however, that patriarchy is a universal form of oppression that exists in all societies. This is the question we want to recognize and address: patriarchy as the system at the core of all human rights violations and how human rights education can transform the patriarchal system into a human rights system. A human rights system that promotes a human rights culture in which all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, are seen as indivisible and inter-connected…--break through the vicious cycle of humiliation and close the gap of dignity amongst all.

We want to identify human rights violations towards and within discriminated groups and communities in order to craft effective human rights education strategies. At the same time, we must acknowledge that discrimination and inequality are experienced and interconnected across a wide range of differences: age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, nationality, disability and other status. It is also important to note that oppression also occurs in a variety of settings: family, schools, communities, cities, countries, etc.

There are many movements, coalitions, groups and individuals that
courageously confront different forms of discrimination that cause
injustice. Our workshop will bring them together to launch a debate, which will envision a new, a different world, where equality of all human beings will be achieved in a human right culture in which respect for dignity and equality becomes a code for living.

Some of the questions we have considered and will discuss at our workshop include:

- How do we break down the effects of patriarchy and racism so that everyone of us takes on some responsibility for the oppression of others?

- How do we stop raising competing claims to victimization?

- How do we stop the trading of atrocities?

- How do we begin to love ourselves in order to love our neighbor?

- How do we weave a human rights culture?

- How do we build a new political culture based on human rights?

- How do we break down boundaries among discriminated groups?

- How do we learn to belong and behave in a new world without any form of discrimination?

- How do we break through the vicious cycle of humiliation?

We propose to do this by promoting the inclusion of a holistic human rights framework and examine cause and effect of all forms of discrimination through the learning about human rights.

Who are we?

PDHRE, The People’s Movement for Human Rights Education is a nonprofit international organization founded in 1989. In the last twelve years it developed and facilitated training in human rights education for social transformation in more then 60 countries around the world. PDHRE, serves as a comprehensive “extension service”, to energize, and motivate communities to embark on a life long process of holistic learning about human rights as relevant to their daily struggles and concerns; and to recognize human rights as a powerful tool for action.

PDHRE, offices and affiliates in Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, Latin
America and Europe are uniquely qualified to enhance the learning about human rights as a holistic value system protected by international laws, assisting communities in developing: ”A new political culture based on human rights” Nelson Mandela.


[ en español ]

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