A Path to Dignity: The Power of Human Rights Education

October 1, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

I don’t remember all that much. I am illiterate. I just remember things I see, I hear, like women have rights. I learned that. Human rights is policing. Policing is human rights. So when you come in and you risk assess: Oh … there is a fight there, what are the issues that come into your head? The human rights framework
will actually say to you, safety, safety, safety … minimize harm. In the tea shop,
the lower caste is served in coconut shells and the upper class is served in steel cups. I told them, “I will report this
as a human rights violation.” And with our teacher’s help,
we solved the problem.             All human beings are born free and equal
in dignity and rights.” This is the powerful beginning
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed in 1948
by the then newly-established United Nations. The full realization of human rights requires all human beings to be aware
of their and other people’s rights, and of the means to ensure their protection. This is the task of human rights education, which builds knowledge, skills and attitudes
prompting behaviour that upholds human rights. Human rights education
can make a real difference in people’s lives – whether a woman in Turkey, a police officer in Australia or a child in India – as we see in this film.   In our village my family is lower caste. When I fetch water from the tap the others take water first
and only then we can get some. If we say “We came here first”
they mock us and ask, Why are you talking so much,
being from a lower caste?”   The community of people formerly
known as “the Untouchables” of this country, who are popularly known today as “Dalits” … people who are “upper caste”
consider them [the Dalits] to be impure. For a young boy running into school … just because he comes from the Dalit community, he may not be allowed
to eat along with the others. because the spillover from his plate
should not fall into somebody else’s plate. It is a matter
which affects and hurts very deeply the soul of the Dalit.     We started with the words “human rights” … and then we tried to understand
what was Dalit human rights. We understand that these are very powerful words. But who are we? Who are we? All those who are working for
the promotion or the protection of human rights of all people, we are all human rights defenders. The first time I attended
the human rights training was in 2001 At the time, I didn’t understand
a lot things that were happening in society. Human rights…
We didn’t even know what it was or what it meant. We went to the training programme
and there we learned a lot. Normally the government
won’t allow any private organization to get into the school activities. It’s very difficult in Tamil Nadu
or even in the whole of India.     The UN mechanism is the tool for us to approach the government. Then again, we have to convince the headmaster around the importance of human rights education.         The Rights of the Child We have a lesson in human rights education
on the rights of the child … the right to play, the right to education, the right to freedom of expression and the right to liberty. Come and write
the right to liberty and
the right to freedom of movement. My mother is a construction labourer;
my father, a truck driver. My parents make me do all the work ?
never my brothers. Only boys are valued and supported in our family, not the girls at all. I ask why the boys can’t help. You gave birth to all of us.
Why am I the only one who has to work?” They say,
The boys will take care of us until we die. But you will go away. They say these things and hit me.
They hit me with a ladle. They hit me on my back. That’s why I have this bruise
and also one on my face. Two years ago a girl in my village
got upset with her mother. She set herself on fire and died. So I thought… We have insecticide in our house. I’ll eat that. Then I thought,
Why die? I can talk to my human rights teacher
and get her to solve the problem.” It slowly starts from the children. We cannot move the parents. We cannot say to the parents,
You have to change your attitude. A small group of children will gather. They will discuss the issues. They’ll move the community to
discuss with the community members. The community members include
the parents of the children also… the same children. There is a space
for the children to talk with their family itself. That way we are
creating the change in different ways… teachers, children and the family members, through the family members, neighbourhood. So the chain will go like this. In Tamil Nadu,
there is a practice in some areas. They won’t send their girl child to the school. Some children are asking their parents, Why are you not sending my sister to the school? She has a right. In a simple way we can say each child can make a change through practising the human rights values. That is important. Before, teachers would come
with sticks in their hands. But once human rights education had started, they left the sticks and started treating us kindly My neighbours forced their 13-year-old daughter
to get engaged. We asked her parents why. They said it was because they were poor. We told them,”This is wrong.” You should
allow your daughter to get an education.” So they allowed her to stay at school
and called off the wedding. She is in the 9th grade now. We are having hope.
I too am having hope on that. After my experience in our organization,
a long six years here only in this educational process –
trainings, field visits, visiting schools, meeting the children and teachers – that experience gave me the hope. It is possible.
The change is possible in the society through the children and the teachers
who are involved in this process. Now we are in 22 states
with the human rights education programme. I think that being born a girl
is not the problem. I have been denied my rights. But these rights are my birthright.                           It was very obvious from the start that this piece of legislation was going to support the regeneration of policing
as being focused on the community, rather than “us and them” mentality. We felt that introducing a charter
would send a clear message to the community about society’s expectations
of how they should treat one another. Australians have a very strong ethos around
people deserve a “fair go” And the concept of a “fair go all around”
is a key part of our culture. And so, talking about
human rights in an Australian context, is very much about giving people a “fair go”. It’s about the balance, the balance of the needs of the offender, perpetrator – whichever language you like to use – and the balance of the needs of the community. But first and foremost
it was really about highlighting what has long been
a part of our tradition and culture, which is around
affording people dignity and respect, and protecting people’s rights.             One of the challenges we faced was breaking down some of the perceptions that police might not be
absolutely focused on human rights. Now, that might be because
sometimes police have got it wrong. Just west of Elizabeth,
we’ve got a drunk here that needs assistance. The first step really was about firing up people’s radar, if you like, so that they actually started
looking for those issues in the workplace. High complaints against police some service delivery problems with really, really bad timelines
on completing stuff, from victims reporting
to getting offenders to court in time… We were having court costs issues with prosecutions that were failing
because of poor investigation. Questions around the quality of prisoners’ food… making sure that
prisoners have access to sunlight… making sure that if we’re dealing with suspects,
we’re respecting their right to silence. The scope of the programme is, from day one, it was accessible
to all employees of Victoria Police, from the admin worker who takes in the calls, to the Chief Commissioner. Because if a receptionist is taking a call, they have to be thinking about
the rights of the individual at the other end. If a scientist is managing an investigation, they have to be thinking about
the integrity of the evidence because that is what is
going to be protecting the community. Word got around that wherever somebody
has done human rights education There’s less angst
when they are dealing with the community. So we started to get flooded with requests. Human rights training forms part of our
foundation training programme now. So, recruits marching into the academy or
going into the academy for their training phase do initial education in human rights. We certainly have to be conscious of
the diversity in our community. Some have faced
a pretty tough time on their journey here ? many years in a refugee camp. Some have come from countries where
law enforcement officers are oppressors. It certainly creates some challenges
when we, as Victoria Police, are looking to deliver services. Since we settled here as new immigrants a lot of our youth, they were having problems because of difficulties of understanding
how things work in this country. Once there is an issue,
they don’t know how to sort it, whether with law or by themselves. A simple complaint came in that the police were
over-policing Sudanese kids. Our police force is predominately white. However, we are not going to assume
they’re racists. We just have to make sure
that they understand there’s a difference between
a person and their behaviour. So the person is
the person who needs to be protected. If there’s behaviour that is deemed to be illegal then we manage the behaviour. And that comes from the accountability that is brought about
by the human rights framework. Why am I doing this? Is it legal? Is it proportional? So we have very clear parameters. This is how we behave with the community. If you don’t, you will be sanctioned. The policeman came down there. And I’m like, “Ah, what did I do?” Is there any problem with the boys? Or what’s happening? Then he’s like, “Oh no… we just want to talk to you about something.” There’s a programme we’re running. It’s about the youth. Youth leadership and all this sort of stuff. Then I’m like,
Okay, that sounds a bit interesting. We emphasize that human rights
are about respecting dignity. And we emphasize
that the only difference from culture to culture is how dignity and respect are articulated. If I was to nominate
one key thing that’s changed, There is now
a common language around this stuff. It is much easier now for me and my supervisors and indeed police who are on the beat to self-regulate, use a language that
their colleagues or their subordinates understand when they’re wanting to set expectations
around how people should behave and how they should do
what is a very difficult job. It’s given us a range of dividends. It hasn’t actually been a chore. It’s actually been a bit positive
to allow us to do our job better. Over the past 12 months,
right across operational policing there’s been on average a 30% reduction
in complaints about police conduct. From that time
I start to know more about police. Here it’s all about, you know, just the uniform. They put the uniform on… that’s the difference between me and them. But once there is no uniform, it’s just a normal person like you and me.   I was just a child. It was an arranged marriage. My family wanted it. But I said, “No, I’m still too young.” I’m just a child. I saw him for the first time
when I became his bride. Suddenly I was in a place I didn’t know, in the bed of somebody I didn’t know. My husband was 15 years older than me. We have two children now. I can never forget…
I was eight months pregnant with my son. He kicked me so hard. I protected my belly with my hands.
He was kicking my stomach. I covered my belly to protect my baby. I told my mother and my father but they blamed me. They said,
You don’t behave well. It’s your fault! When they continued to blame me, I knew they’d do nothing, so I kept quiet. At times I was really going crazy but I couldn’t do anything. I decided to get a divorce. But my family came after me with guns. They were looking for me. So I went to VAKAD [Van Women’s Association]. The rate violence in Turkey is quite high… all kinds of violence economic, political, psychological, cultural, physical and sexual.     I didn’t deserve all the cruelty, all the suffering. And there are so many women like me, I see them all around me. Women were going to the training,
so I asked about it. The people at VAKAD [Van Women’s Association]
asked if wanted to join. So I said “Yes”. I said,
I am illiterate, but let’s see. Let me try. What might I learn? And would I succeed?       If women want to make a change and we are able to support them with these empowering activities
and training programmes, then they can change their lives. And what do they do? They may choose to continue their education. If they have marriage problems, they try to solve them. They become more empowered
in their communication with their husbands and children. The women we reach
through this training programme, who come to realize their value as individuals, have all taken steps forward. They begin to see the next step. They engage more with people and take better advantage of
opportunities offered by the State. Some go back to school. Some return to work life. These are really important steps. The training was very good. We talked about many things. We opened up and relaxed more. And I thought, “There is so much I don’t know.” I don’t know much. We learned what we have and what we can have. I grew stronger. I thought, “I am not alone.” If I fall, they will be there for me. Many women
who attend our training programme realize they are not alone. Many women have the same experiences. This helps them relax and feel much better. They let go of guilty feelings. They feel stronger
and realize, “This is not my fault!” Here, most of the women experience the same things.” So, I am not the problem. The problem lies elsewhere. It is in society, in this social construction.” And so women feel much more empowered.     It was so happy to change my identity, my name. My name is Evrim [Evolution]. I kept my last name, Gul [Smile] because I want to smile from now on. I want to smile. Women everywhere, anywhere in the world, would change with this training.             I think that when we talk about
who is responsible for protecting human rights and for promoting human rights in the world, we have to talk first
about the role of governments because of course we have to lead the cause. We have to set the legal framework. And we have to monitor
the implementation of the commitments. But this is also a responsibility of civil society. The organized civil society
can play a very, very important role and finally, the international organizations. Human rights education
has to become everybody’s collective job and we are trying our best. I don’t think we are anywhere successful to the extent
we thought we would be successful. But I think the consciousness is growing. And I think that
growing consciousness is what is important. Since I studied human rights
I want to become a teacher. I want to teach human rights. We started the thinking. I’m not yet confident that
I’ve got every single one of my members who, every time they go on patrol, it’s just a natural reaction to be considerate
towards individual’s human rights. When I’m confident that I’ve got that,
then the work is done. I feel strong… very much so. If I could help other women, then I would be even happier. That’s what I want, to be an example. I hope I will be able to do this.