Defending Children's Rights/Child Soldiers
The war in Mozambique (1985–1992) left 250,000 children displaced and 200,000 orphaned, while tens of thousands more were forcibly recruited and put into combat. It was rare that government forces and guerrillas engaged- combat was waged almost exclusively against unarmed civilians. In the midst of the brutality Abubacar Sultan traveled the country across roadless lands and on tiny planes to rescue the children of war- kids, six to thirteen years old, who had been forced to witness and, in some cases, to commit atrocities against family members and neighbors. Sultan trained over five hundred people in community-based therapies and his project reunited over 4,000 children with their families. Sultan put his life at grave risk on a daily basis. Today he continues his work with children, concentrating on community education and children’s rights through his initiative Wona Sanana.
Giving Voice to the Voiceless
In 2000, Freedom House, an organization based in Washington, D.C., described the dire state of repression in Sudan, so perilous for human rights that it was the only place in the world where we were asked not to reveal the identity of the defender: “The Sudanese government and its agents are bombing, burning, and raiding southern villages, enslaving thousands of women and children, kidnapping and forcibly converting Christian boys, by sending them to the front as cannon fodder, annihilating entire villages or relocating them into concentration camps called ‘peace villages,’ while preventing food from reaching starving villages. Individual Christians, including clergy, continue to be imprisoned, flogged, tortured, assassinated, and even crucified for their faith.”
China, Tibet, and a Message of Non-Violence
The ninth child born to a farming family in the Chinese border region of Amdo in 1935, two-year-old Lhamo Thondup was recognized by Tibetan monks as the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, considered a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Renamed Tenzin Gyatso, he was brought to Lhasa to begin a sixteen-year education in metaphysical and religious texts to prepare him for his role as spiritual leader. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, and its aftermath, introduced brutal repressions in which thousands of Tibetans were executed in prisons or starved to death in prison camps, and hundreds of monasteries, temples, and other cultural and historic buildings were pillaged and demolished. In their effort to eradicate Tibetan culture and identity, the Chinese forced Tibetans to dress like Chinese, to profess atheism, to burn books, and to condemn, humiliate, and kill their elders and teachers. His life in jeopardy, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in northern India along with 80,000 Tibetans in 1959; he has never returned. Meanwhile, new waves of repression erupted in the 1960s and 1980s that continue in the present. To date, the Chinese government has murdered, massacred, tortured, or starved to death over one million Tibetans: one-fifth of the population. In the face of this state oppression, where do Tibetans gather strength to continue the struggle? His Holiness the Dalai Lama inspires Tibetans to embrace their beliefs and hold fast to their dreams. He has demanded that we think of those who have stolen his land and massacred his people, not as murderers and thieves, but as human beings deserving of forgiveness and compassion. Since 1959, His Holiness has received over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, and other prizes, in recognition of his lifelong message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. His Holiness has also authored more than 72 books and describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
Speaking Truth to Genocide
Brought up as one of eight children of a Shanghai banker, Harry Wu attended a Jesuit school before enrolling in Beijing College of Geology in the late 1950s. In the throes of a Communist purge, his university was given a quota of counterrevolutionary elements, and relegated Wu to nineteen years in the Chinese gulag, known as the laogai. There, he survived physical and psychological torture, living for a time on only ground-up corn husks. In his autobiography Bitter Winds, he describes chasing rats through the fields in order to steal the grains in their nests, or eating snakes. After his release, Wu accepted a position as an unpaid visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, arriving in the United States in 1985 with forty dollars. After ten days of pursuing research by day and sleeping on a park bench by night, he landed a job on the graveyard shift at a doughnut shop where he ate three meals a day and had a place to stay at night. (To date, he cannot touch a doughnut.) Wu returned, or tried to return, to China a total of five times. While there, twice in 1991 and once in 1994, Wu documented conditions in prisons and labor camps for Sixty Minutes and other news programs, and was placed on China’s most wanted list for his exposés. In 1995, on his fifth trip, he was caught. While Wu spent sixty-six days in detention, awaiting news of his fate, a worldwide campaign for his release was launched, including demands that Hillary Clinton boycott the Beijing Summit of Women. China released him, and his return to U.S. soil was celebrated across the country.
Wu frequently testifies on Capitol Hill about the latest abuses he has uncovered—the for-profit selling of executed prisoners’ organs by Chinese officials, the illegal export of prison labor products (such as diesel engines and Chicago Bulls apparel), the frequency of public executions, the unfair restrictions on reproductive rights and their appalling enforcement procedures. The Laogai Research Foundation, which Wu founded and directs, estimates there have been fifty million people incarcerated in the laogai since 1950, and that there are eight million people in forced labor today. In 2004 Harry Wu took part in Speak Truth to Power activities in Rome, Italy. In November 2008, Wu opened the Laogai Museum in Washington D.C., the first museum in the world to exclusively deal with human rights in China. Harry Wu’s self-proclaimed goal is to put the word laogai in every dictionary in the world, and to that end, works eighteen-hour days criss-crossing the country and the globe speaking with student groups and heads of state to make this present-day horror become a past memory.
Defender Against Modern Slavery and Trafficking
Enslaved in a shrine in her native Ghana as a young child under a custom known as Trokosi, she was forced to work without pay, without food or clothing, and to perform sexual services for the holy man. She was able to escape seventeen years later, after several failed attempts, at the age of twenty-three. Trokosi comes from an Ewe word meaning “slave of the gods,” and is understood as a religious and cultural practice in which young girls, mostly virgins, are sent into lifelong servitude to atone for the alleged crimes of their relatives. In 1997, it was estimated that approximately five thousand young girls and women were being kept in 345 shrines in the southeastern part of Ghana. Through Juliana Dogbadzi’s daring escape and her subsequent efforts to denounce the system, the Trokosi practice was banned in Ghana in 1999; however, law enforcement against Trokosi is still lax. Dogbadzi continues to speak out against Trokosi, traveling the country, meeting with slaves, and trying to win their emancipation.
Multi-National Corporate Responsibility
Ka Hsaw Wa is the founder of EarthRights International, a nongovernmental organization that filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against a U.S. corporation for torture committed by its agents overseas. The suit charges that Burmese government agents hired by Unocal, a U.S.-based oil company, to provide security, transportation, and infrastructure support for an oil pipeline, committed extortion, torture, rape, forced labor, and extrajudicial killings against the local indigenous population. Ka Hsaw Wa knows about the abuses committed by the military regime firsthand. He has spent years walking thousands of miles through the forests of Burma, interviewing witnesses and recording testimonies of victims of human rights abuses. He has taught hundreds of people to investigate, document, and expose violations of international human rights. As a student leader in the 1980s, Ka Hsaw Wa organized pro-democracy demonstrations in Rangoon. He was seized and tortured by agents of the Burmese military regime, in power since 1962 (and renamed SLORC or State Law and Order Restoration Council in late 1988). When police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, one of Ka Hsaw Wa’s best friends died in his arms. Ka Hsaw Wa fled into exile along the Thai border.
Children's Rights and Child Labor
Advocacy Bonded Labor Parliamentarians Solidarity Fair Trade Boycott Migrant Worker Emancipate Caste System Untouchables
Political Participation Justice Change Human Rights Power Decision making Civic values Political systems Citizenship
Born on October 4, 1942, Kek Galabru received her medical degree in France in 1968. She practiced medicine and conducted research in Phnom Penh from 1968 to 1971, and continued her work in Canada, Brazil, and Angola. In 1987– 88 Galabru played a key role in opening negotiations between Hun Sen, president of the Cambodian Council of Ministers, and Prince Sihanouk of the opposition. That led to peace accords ending the civil war in 1991, and elections held under the auspices of the United Nations. Galabru founded the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) during the United Nations transition period. LICADHO promotes human rights, with a special emphasis on women’s and children’s rights, monitors violations, and disseminates educational information about rights. During the 1993 elections, LICADHO’s 159 staff members taught voting procedures to 16,000 people, trained 775 election observers, and produced and distributed one million voting leaflets. Since then, LICADHO has remained at the forefront of human rights protection efforts in Cambodia by monitoring abuses and providing medical care, legal aid, and advocacy to victims. LICADHO offers direct assistance to victims of human rights violations, especially torture victims, children and women from its headquarters in Phnom Penh and its twelve provincial offices. In 2005, Galabru was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize project.
Health Care and Potable Water
Justice Human Rights Global citizenship Government Power Individual responsibility Health Care Potable Water
Farm Workers Rights Migrant Labor Factory Farm Agribusiness Family Farmer Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Violence Against Women
Justice Human Rights Empathy Power Freedom from Violence Individual Integrity Identity Decision making Civic values Womens Rights
Marina Pisklakova is Russia’s leading women’s rights activist. She studied aeronautical engineering in Moscow, and while conducting research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, was startled to discover family violence had reached epidemic proportions. Because of her efforts, Russian officials started tracking domestic abuse and estimate that, in a single year, close to 15,000 women were killed and 50,000 were hospitalized, while only one-third to one-fifth of all battered women received medical assistance. With no legislation outlawing the abuse, there were no enforcement mechanisms, support groups, or protective agencies for victims. In July 1993, Pisklakova founded a hot line for women in distress, later expanding her work to establish the first women’s crisis center in the country. She lobbied for legislation banning abuse, and worked with an openly hostile law enforcement establishment to bring aid to victims and prosecution to criminals. She began a media campaign to expose the violence against women and to educate women about their rights, and regularly appears on radio and television promoting respect for women’s rights. Today her organization ANNA (National Center for the Prevention of Violence) operates a network of 170 crisis centers across Russia and the former Soviet Union. She is now active not only in combating the scourge of violence against women, but also trafficking of women and children. In 2004 she was the recipient of the Human Rights Global Leadership Award. Pisklakova’s efforts have saved countless lives, at great risk to her own.
Justice Human Rights Empathy Decision making Civic values Microcredit Economic systems Values Choice Needs and wants Factors of production
Founder of the Grameen Bank, the world’s largest and most successful microcredit institution, Muhammad Yunus was born in one of the poorest places on earth, the country (then part of Pakistan) of Bangladesh. As a professor of economics, he was struck by the discrepancy between the economic theory taught in universities and the abject poverty around him. Recognizing that the poor remained poor because they had no access to capital, no collateral for loans, and borrowing requirements so modest that it was not cost-effective for large banks to process their needs, Yunus started experimenting with small collateral-free loans to landless rural peasants and impoverished women. In 1983, he founded the Grameen Bank. Its rules were strict and tough. Clients find four friends to borrow with. If any of the five defaults, all are held accountable, building commitment and providing community support. Initial loans are as little as ten dollars, and must be repaid with 20 percent interest. Nearly twenty years later, this revolutionary bank is flourishing, with more than 1,050 branches serving 35,000 villages and two million customers, 94 percent of them women. Ninety-eight percent of Grameen’s borrowers repay their loans in full, a rate of return far higher than that of the rich and powerful. More importantly, the clients are transforming their lives: from powerless and dependent to self-sufficient, independent, and politically astute. The real transformation will be felt by the next generation: a generation with better food, education, medication, and the firsthand satisfaction of taking control of their lives, thanks to Yunus’s vision, creativity, and confidence. Among many awards, Dr. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Together with Nelson Mandela, fellow Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu and select other prominent statesmen, human rights leaders and public figures, Yunus has been a member of the “Global Elders” group.
What does free expression mean?
Who do you think is protecting you?
Justice Human Rights Fair Treatment Civil rights Equal protection Police misconduct Racial profiling
Van Jones is the founding director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Founded in 1996 and named for an unsung civil rights heroine, the Center challenges human rights abuses in the U.S. criminal justice system. A project of the Ella Baker Center, Bay Area Police Watch is committed to stopping police misconduct and protecting victims of abuse. Police Watch takes a multifaceted approach, combining advocacy with public education and community organizing. Staff work directly with individuals who have suffered police harassment, intimidation, and brutality. Jones’s efforts to establish civilian oversight, and to require transparency and accountability within disciplinary proceedings, have yielded results. Jones’s efforts to ban the use of pepper spray, routinely used by police in subduing suspects, has helped launch a nationwide campaign against the chemical weapon.