International Women’s Day 2014

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I have a complicated relationship with International Women’s Day (IWD).  On the one hand, it vexes me greatly that we have only one day a year – designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1977 as March 8 – to celebrate the many contributions of women around the world.  On the other hand, we still need to focus attention on the fact that women, who make up half of the world’s population, still face almost incomprehensible inequality in societies throughout the world.  Not just inequality, but inexcusable pain and violence.

One in three women in the world still experience violence (including rape and marital rape, spousal abuse, and child abuse) in their lifetime.  The numbers are closer to one in four in the West – numbers that are still shockingly high.

Even before birth, preference for male children leads to feticide and infanticide in many parts of the world. Millions of girls and women around the world face obstacles to education, access to health, freedom of choice in marriage and divorce, land ownership and political participation. Even in the West, women continue to face inequality, including professional obstacles.

The UN theme for IWD 2014 is “equality for women is progress for all”.  And there is no question that that statement is true.  As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement for IWD 2014:

“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

IWD means different things to different people around the world.  For some, it is a day to celebrate the strength of personal relationships with mothers, grandmothers, daughters and friends.  Some choose to celebrate the overall contributions of women; in 2014, I noticed a particular interest in celebrating the “bad ass” women in our collective history (which I do applaud).  For others, it is the opportunity to highlight all that still remains to be done.

For me, IWD is all these things.  It is also about wanting a world where my daughter and my sons are treated equally without thought or legal requirement.  It is about teaching them that this is what they – both boys and girl – should expect in their future. But it is also about celebrating the strong community of women that has brought us this far.

I took this photo of a painting that hung in the stairwell of a hotel I stayed in last year in Yaounde.  It was dark in the stairwell, but I paused every time I passed it.  The painting appeared original, but there was no name given to it.  No artist was listed.   But for me, it captures the spirit of International Women’s Day.  We still have a ways to go, but we are together in this effort.  We learn from each other and we support each other.  Here is my perspective on International Women’s Day 2014:

It may take us time, but when women work together, nothing can stop us.

 

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Universal Children’s Day Photo Essay

Nepal
Children in Nepal

Today, November 20,  is Universal Children’s Day!  In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly established Universal Children’s Day to encourage all countries to take action to actively promote the welfare of the world’s children.   On November 20, 1959 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Thirty years later, on November 20, 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rightscivil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been acceded to or ratified by 193 countries –  more countries than any other international treaty.

One of the objectives of Universal Children’s Day is to raise awareness about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Convention sets out the basic human rights that every child should have to develop to their fullest human potential, regardless of  where they live in the world. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; promoting the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.  The Conventionalso protects children’s rights by setting standards that governments should provide in the areas of health care, education, and legal, civil and social services.

In honor of Universal Children’s Day 2013, I’m sharing a few of the rights guaranteed by the Convention along with photos of children I have taken around the world.

Article 1: “A child means every human being below the age of 18 years.”

Yaounde, Cameroun
A child in Cameroon

Article 2:  Children must be treated “ … without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of … race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” 

A child in Zanzibar

Article 3: “In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

Peru
Children in Peru

Articles 5 & 18: State signatories must “… respect the … rights and duties of parents … [and recognize that] both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing … of the child.”

A family in Morocco
A family in Morocco

Articles 12-14: “… the child who is capable of forming his or her own views [has] the right to express those views [and] the right to freedom of … thought, conscience and religion.”

A child in Iceland

Article 19: Children must be protected from “… injury or abuse … including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents … or any other person….”

A child in Nepal
A child in Nepal

Article 22: “… a child who is seeking refugee status or who is … a refugee … [shall] receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance ….”

Buduburam, Ghana
Children in Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana
 

Article 23: The State recognizes “… the right of the disabled child to special care” and the right to “… enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity ….”

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Article 24: All children have the right to “the highest attainable standard of health … [including access to] primary health care … nutritious foods and clean drinking-water.” 

Children in Norway

Article 27:  Every child has “the right to a standard of living adequate for [her/his] physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”

A child in the USA
A child in the USA

Articles 28 & 29:  State signatories must “recognize the right of a child to education…[that develops] the child’s personality, talents, mental and physical abilities.” 

Children in  Nepal
Children in Nepal

Articles 32 & 36:   Children must be “protected from economic exploitation … and from [hazardous] work [and] all other forms of exploitation. 

A child in Cameroon
A child in Cameroon

These are just some of the rights set forth in the Convention.  You can read the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child here.  

So on Universal Children’s Day 2013 (and every  other day), remember to:

Love your youngers!  (Sign posted on the wall of a school in Nepal.)

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day!

Last year for Human Rights Day, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog on 10 Things To Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day.  The date of December 10 was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.  But ten things are not enough, so here are a few more ideas for simple and meaningful activities to do with your kids on Human Rights Day (December 10) 2012.

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1.  Make a one minute video showing what “It’s About Ability!” means to you, whether in the world at large or to you personally. The deadline for the It’s About Ability youth video contest on children with disabilities is December 15, 2012.  But even if you don’t enter the contest or make a video, you and your kids can learn about and discuss the rights of children with disabilities by reading the “Thoughts for inspiration” in the contest guidelines and this simple explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which also includes more ideas for things you can do to change attitudes and rules so that children who have disabilities can go to school, play and take part in activities that every child wants to do.)  The Learning Guide to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, designed to empower kids ages 12-18 to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, can be found here.

2.  Make a World Wishes Dove with your family.  Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper.  Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather.    Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it.  Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.

Template for a doveImage Source
Template for a dove
Image Source

Thankful turkey

(Note: this project was inspired by the Thankful Turkey at my daughter’s school.  You can read more about that here.)

3.  Learn about the challenges that children living in poverty face have overcome to succeed in school.  Play the United Way‘s PASS THE GRADE  game.  In honor of the first  Giving Tuesday on November 27th, The Greater Twin Cities United Way launched a fun, educational online game called PASS THE GRADE.  (My friend ThirdEyeMom wrote about PASS THE GRADE; read her post here.)

4.  Watch some UNICEF Cartoons for Child’s Rights together.  Cartoons for Children’s Rights is a UNICEF broadcast initiative that aims to inform people around the world about children’s rights. The effort has forged partnerships with many well-known animation studios that have developed more than 80 half-minute public service announcements based on the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Each PSA illustrates a right described in the global rights treaty, such as ‘Freedom from Child Labour’ or ‘Protection from Neglect’. All the spots are non-verbal, in order to get the rights message across to everyone, regardless of language. The spots have aired on more than 2,000 television stations globally.  Links to the top 10 can be found here.

5.  Do an anti-bullying activity together like Sticks and Stones from Teach Peace Now.   Ask your child what think about the saying  “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can really hurt me.” Have they heard another version of this saying? Which is truer?  Have they ever had someone say something to them that hurt their feelings. Has someone ever hurt them physically or tried to scare them or one of their friends? Have they ever hurt someone by something they said or did? You can give a personal example of a time you were a victim or a witness to bullying or hurt someone’s feelings. You can also read a book about bullying like This is Our HouseHey, Little Ant, Mr. Lincoln’s WaySay Something, or Simon’s Hook.

Give each child some light gray paper “stones.” Have your kids write a behavior that could hurt someone or make them feel bad such as calling someone a name, or tripping someone. Younger children can draw a picture.  Have them wrinkle up the “stone” and then try to smooth it out. Explain that once someone has been hurt, it is never forgotten. You cannot remove the hurt. The wrinkles will always be there.

Hang stones on wall to create a wall of intolerance or sit in a circle and pile the rocks up in the middle. Ask the kids to think about ways to prevent these bad things from happening. You can make a list together of ideas.

6.  Go on a hunt for the human rights words around you.  Human rights is not about complicated concepts; human rights is about the core values that everyone needs to live fully in this world.  In talking about human rights with my own kids, I realized that I needed to start with the basic building blocks of language: words. Read more about how, once I realized that, I started to see human rights words all around me in HUMAN RIGHTS: Speaking The Language.

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7.  Start a tradition of doing a family service project on Human Rights Day.   There are many opportunities to volunteer, such as preparing and serving meals at a local homeless shelter.  The Lappin family has done this for two years in a row now in their community in Washington state.
Lappins
Dad Nathan describes it as “Such a humbling and at the same time rewarding experience. Feels really good to concretely help others and appreciate what we have as well. Our kids did a great job helping and participating, and interacting with the kids we were hosting.”
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Even if your family isn’t able to volunteer in an established project, you can still do something as a family to address the economic and social rights in your community.  For example, put together care packages with warm socks or mittens, a water bottle, individually wrapped snacks (and maybe even decorate a card to stick inside) and offer them to homeless men and women who you may encounter during the day.  Or have your kids decorate a few grocery bags and fill them with non-perishable food items, then bring your kids with you when you drop them off at the food shelf.
Most importantly, spend some time talking with your kids about your family’s service experience.  Talk about what you did and why you did it. Ask your kids, “How did it feel?” and “What did you learn from doing this project.”
8.  Play a game that helps kids understand human rights.  Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights):  In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as hav- ing the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.

Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too.  (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)

9.  Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?”  Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper.  Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline.  You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.

10.  Check out the Amnesty International You Tube channel.  Amnesty has uploaded more than 500 short videos on a wide variety of global human rights issues. Many videos are in multiple languages, including Spanish and Arabic.  (Given the subject matter, many are more suitable for older kids and teenagers than younger kids. Be sure to preview for anything that might be upsetting to your own children.)

The Price of Silence – A music video that brings together 16 of the worlds top musicians—some of whom have fled oppressive regimes—in a rousing musical plea to guarantee human rights for all.

Wyclef Jean sings One Love in this slideshow about Children’s Rights

 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

MY 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS

MY 2014 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES FOR YOU & YOUR KIDS

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!