We are inherently different. All of us. We have different religious beliefs, political views, and social behaviours. Some of us start the day off with a coffee, others with an elaborate breakfast, and others with nothing at all. We go to school for a living, stay home from school to earn an extra living, or start work at an early age. We are all different. The one undeniable thing that unites us all, though, is our humanity. We are human and each deserving of dignity and rights.
December 10th marks Human Rights Day, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the rights that we all possess and often take for granted. This year marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Complete with thirty articles, the UDHR affirms that “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” (UDHR). This is to say that we are each deserving of the rights encapsulated in the UDHR for the simple fact that we are human. There are no qualification standards. There are no prerequisites. We have documents, bills, declarations, and conventions that all aim to protect and advance such rights, yet millions of people worldwide still suffer from the exploitation of these rights.
I’ve always been fascinated by the world of human rights and the international mechanisms in place to ensure that they are respected. On the same note, I’ve always been amazed at the fact that these rights, although they apply to everyone, are frequently disregarded or ignored.
A few years ago, I was in Ukraine visiting orphanages and drug rehab centers with a group from Montreal. Nothing I did prior to that trip could prepare me for what I would see and experience. Every time I would leave an orphanage, I would burst into tears at the thought of an unknown future for the children I had just spent hours playing with. I met teenagers confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives because they did not receive the proper medical attention they needed at birth. The most minor surgeries could have left some children and teens thriving, but because they lack the means, they remain in the condition that they are in.
I met a girl named Natasha in one of the orphanages I visited. She was a seventeen-year-old beauty. She showed me her room and offered me literally every single belonging that she owned – a plastic bangle bracelet, a ring, a photograph, and a painting she had made, to name a few. Needless to say, her selflessness is something that needs to be emulated in all of us. We spent the entire day together and her attitude, despite the circumstances that put her current situation, was such an encouragement to me. As I was leaving the orphanage, our team leader told me that Natasha was being scouted by a modelling agency and would likely be offered a job as a model once she would leave the orphanage. I was then given insight into the world of human trafficking, where many girls, like Natasha, are offered job opportunities by traffickers posing as modelling agencies. Knowing little to nothing on the subject and faced with having to earn an income for herself, Natasha would likely be one of the millions of girls who are trapped or coerced into a cycle of sexual exploitation.
Throughout my trip, I kept telling myself that this isn’t fair. Why is it that some of us live our days without even thinking twice about our rights, while others are deprived of them on a daily basis? There’s no answer, except that we live in a harsh world. But, we have the resources at hand to change this. We are a movement aimed at educating children, nurturing communities, feeding families, and working with victims of exploitation to ensure that the rights endowed to us as humans are respected and that our basic needs are met. We have the power to make a tangible difference in the lives of people we might not ever meet. Let’s act on it.
First stop: check out our Gift Catalogue to see how you can educate a child or help a girl heal from sexual exploitation.Read other posts from The Voice.