Read this update from Balboa High School

TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot writes: In April, we sent out an email to our community of colleagues and supporters asking for input on how knowing about the UDHR matters in addressing issues today, as posted here.

Jill Smith, a 10th grade English teacher at Balboa High School, who attended our 2015 3-day Institute on TWAICB curriculum, wrote back right away. She first noted that she implemented her plan coming out of the Institute “to teach a whole year of human rights by keeping it positive, empowering, and focused on solutions, as well as to integrate movement and arts into every class session in some way.”  She added, “I am happy to report that it’s been a wonderful year!!  I’ve been piloting/developing an entire English curriculum around human rights, with the Declaration as the framework,” in which she asked her students to respond to our question, “Does the UDHR still matter?”

High school class at Balboa High School, San Francisco

Jill Smith and her English class at Balboa High School.

Shown here are the answers that the students emailed me. The students write about situations in other countries that they learned about by watching the film Girl Rising, and watching videos of human rights-related stories presented by Path to Dignity, as the examples that drive their answers. Many students noted that once people know their rights, they are motivated to speak up and take action.

I’ve had the pleasure of recently meeting with the class to discuss how their writings will be a source of inspiration to others about why knowing the UDHR does matter. I’ve also seen the outstanding activities Ms. Smith is having the students work on, to not only gain proficiency in Common Core-required English skills, but also to consider how knowledge about human rights makes a difference. Ms. Smith notes, “I’m pleased that they all seem to get the point that human rights education is key, and that people who learn about their rights are empowered to act on their behalf as well as on the behalf of others.”

I am inspired by these messages, with words conveying the students’ empathy and understanding. Thanks for reading on and taking in the wisdom of our future leaders!

On the general importance of knowing about the UDHR:

I personally think that Universal Declaration of Human Rights matters. We are born free and equal. By learning about the UDHR, we realize that we have the right to be free as human beings. According to my information, only 7% of American people know the UDHR exists. Therefore, this is the reason why there are unjust and imbalanced things happening in the world.

I think the Universal Declaration of Human Right does matter in China. I lived in China when I was in elementary school and I noticed that some people were not “born free and equal in dignity.” The peasants could not afford the education for their children during middle school because it is very expensive. Thus, their parents made them work after graduating elementary school in order to earn money for their family. Their parents were making them “child laborers,” which violates their human rights. This issue is important to me because it made me want to teach the kids in China about Human Rights.

Personally, I believe that the UDHR is still an important part of the world today and should be treated as such. Some people think human rights are only an issue outside of the US and the Western world, but that is definitely not the case, as evidenced by police brutality and racism still existing in these areas. For example, some police in the US right now are notorious for racial profiling and abusing their firearms by shooting unarmed people.

Outside of the US, human rights are also violated, in cases such as child brides in Afghanistan and child slavery in Nepal. In many countries, including the US, the UDHR is still unknown to most of the population. Thus, not many people know that everyone is “born free and equal.” The world could be a drastically different place if people were to be more aware of universal human rights. Atrocities like child slavery and racism could finally see an end if the UDHR is given more attention.

I think the UDHR still matters today because without these rights women’s status would be even lower. Also, there would be even more of unfairness in the gender roles.

For example, often girls in India cannot go to school and get their education, but the boys can. So,  it’s really unfair for the girls. Also, the girls have to get married at a young age to someone that is way older than them so her parents can have money for their sons. This issue often happens to poor families because parents don’t have enough to feed their daughters. But, on the other hand, the parents give all the goods to their sons.

This matters to me because Article #1 of the UDHR says “We are All Born Free and Equal” but in reality women have less power and rights than me.

In my opinion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most important document in the world; it does still matter today. However, in the United States, 93% of people do not know about the UDHR. Article #1 says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” This seems like that this is a right we should all enjoy. Yet, there are walls between countries; the government decides if they agree to this right or not. If they don’t agree with this right, then their citizens cannot enjoy it. It is very sad that we still have the problems like this happening in our world. I hope each human being can enjoy the rights we have. Therefore I think the UDHR is very important.

I think the UDHR doesn’t matter today because some countries still don’t believe or know about it. Seven percent of Americans know about UDHR. Recently, our class read an article about human trafficking in which author Belinda Goldsmith of the Thomson Reuters Foundation talks about how women and girls from Vietnam are trafficked to China for the sex trade. This relates to Article 1, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” because trafficked women weren’t treated fairly. This article concerns me because I believe that everyone in this world should be treated fairly and equally. I strongly believe that everyone should know their Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In my opinion, the UDHR doesn’t matter today, because there are still many bonded slaves in this world. And no one is really solving the problem. Also, not that many people in slavery can defend themselves, maybe because they don’t know their Human Rights or they got scared, and don’t have the courage to stand up for themselves. But even though some people know the human rights, it didn’t really help them at all, because once they stand up for themselves, they have to also protect their family’s pride and safety, because often in the time, the parents think it is embarrassing  if their daughter/son stand up for themselves . So the UDHR doesn’t really have that much power to help end slavery.


About the film Girl Rising:


I don’t really think the UDHR matters. Even though there is the UDHR, not everyone in the world can enjoy their freedoms and their rights; child brides still exist in India, Afghanistan and other places. Most old people or parents weren’t likely to change culture traditions, although they know that the idea of child brides is violating the UDHR. Also, most girls that are suffering from the idea of child brides won’t fight for their rights even if they know it, because this idea isn’t only about herself individually but also her family’s pride.

I believe that Universal Declaration of Human Rights does matter today. Today in the world, there are still many people who are treated in unfair ways, which totally violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, based on the film “Girl Rising” that I saw in the class, Amina was a girl in Afghanistan who was treated differently by her parents since she had been born. Her family didn’t like her because she was a girl; even her mom didn’t want to give birth to her. After she grew up, her parents sold her to other people and used the money to buy a truck. This violated the human rights Article 1, which said that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Senna wasn’t treated fairly because she is a girl. So, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is really important for me and all people to know. If all the people in the world could know their rights, that could help them stand up.

I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does matter today. Based on the film “Girl Rising” I watched in my English class, a girl named Suma’s story can relate to Article 1: “We are all born free and equal.” Suma was born as a kumlari. Her parents were slaves, so when she was born she automatically became a slave. She did not get an education; she was unable to go to school because she had to work. We should all have the chance to get education and have our own rights. In the world around us there are still people not being treated equally.

I’m concerned about this because only 7 percent of Americans know about UDHR; people should get to know about the rights we have. Also, what if this happened to me? I would want people to help me. I believe that the people who are not enjoying this right would want one day to have it. No one should be treated unfairly. I really like Article 1 of the UDHR, and we all should know the importance of it. However, people should be able to enjoy all 30 of the rights we have in the UDHR.

I strongly think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights matters, or at least it should matter. Article 1 states, “All humans are born free & equal.” An event that I could relate this article to is in the film “Girl Rising.” It shows a girl named Suma in Nepal who was a kumlari and basically born into slavery. She would go from master to master. One master allowed her to go to a program and there she met a woman who told her she had rights. She got to go back to her family and went around helping other girls in the situation she was in. This event is important to me because what if it was me in her situation? Suma got to learn about her rights and it changed her life. Others should be able to do that too.

In my opinion, I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does matter. However, people are either not knowing that they have the right to revolt against the unfairness, or people aren’t following it. This leads to an phenomenon of inhumanity. For example, people in some countries don’t always get education for all sorts of reasons. Parents will often force girls to stay and work to help out the families, which violates both Article 1  “We Are All Born Free and Equal, ” and Article 26 “The Right to Education.”

Before I wrote this letter, I watched a movie called “Girl Rising.” After the girls learned about their Human Rights, it gave them the justification to revolt against the inequality. Overall, I think it’s not enough for us to understand the rights. We must promote it as a society. Also, we need people with power to spread the importance of human rights.

About A Path To Dignity:

I think the UDHR still matters in this world. Every person should have the rights that we have, and everybody should be equal. Learning about the UDHR would help many people.

For example in our English class we saw a video called “A Path to Dignity” about a lady from Turkey, who lived in a world of domestic violence. She felt anger and hate inside of her and she never spoke up because she was scared.

This woman didn’t know what the UDHR was. She didn’t even know these rights exist because she never heard them before. When she got help and she learned about her rights, her life completely changed. Her life changed from negative to positive, and this change gave her more chances in life: work, freedom, liberty and happiness. So the UDHR matters, because when people learn about these rights they live for a better life.