In honor of the recent International Human Rights Day, we have a post from Naghem, our regular contributor & staff member at the Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Branch:

“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.” -Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Let me ask you a question. Did you know that December 10th is International Human Rights Day? I did not, and when I looked at the calendar that day was unmarked.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted on December 10th, 1948, as a result of the horrific crimes committed against humanity in the Second World War which left over 60 million people dead. This 30-article document sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Nine drafters, eight men and one woman, set about to bring human rights to all. That woman was Eleanor Roosevelt, representing the United States of America. The eight men represented Lebanon, the USSR, China, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, and Canada. The 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protect the dignity and equality of all humans worldwide.

Article 1 speaks of the dignity and rights of all humans. Article 2 speaks of equality. Articles 3 ,4, 5, and 6 demand life, freedom, safety, and respect. Articles 7 through 11 order justice and protection to all. Article 12 protects your privacy. Articles 13,14, and 15 give humans the right to movement, refuge, and nationality. Marriage is protected in Article 16, and a person’s property is secured under Article 17. A person’s right to believe in a religion--or not--is secured under Article 18. Articles 19 and 20 give humans the right to expression and assembly. Democracy rules Article 21, and social security is defended in Article 22. Work and leisure are preserved under Articles 23 and 24. Health and education are made safe in Articles 25 and 26. Participation in the arts comes under Article 27, and peace is demanded in Article 28. Article 29 requires a person to take responsibility for protecting his or her rights and the rights of others. Article 30 protects the future, stating human rights are always yours and nobody can take them away.

It has been 67 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted. Has the world seen change since than? Yes it has. Are we ALL completely free? No we are not. I wish I could say that since World War II, all human rights are protected worldwide.

I cannot.

Widespread discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religious belief, class, and sexual orientation is present worldwide, even here at home. Genocide is happening again and again. And again. There are people dying from lack of water, food, and shelter. The very basis of human survival is not being met in some parts of the world. Poverty is a killer all too common in the world and here in the States.

So what can we do for change? Change comes with the knowledge and understanding that all humans are valid and equal. Change comes from within.

I asked my readers a question at the beginning of this post. I leave you with another question and a quote from one of mankind’s greatest warriors for human rights.

What exactly does “freedom” mean?

“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right to not be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

-Nelson Mandela, "Long Walk to Freedom"

Recommended Titles:

Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela

Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids

Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden

My Name Was Hussein - Khristo Kyuchokov

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To find a Plaza program near you, please see our events calendar.

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