Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Protecting Human Rights Defenders

by Annie Ben-Ami
Shirin Ebadi
Courtesy of BBC

Many of us immersed in the human rights world consider ourselves human rights advocates— promoters of fair treatment for all, supporters of the rights of the oppressed, activists committed to human rights standards.  Whether it is on a personal, local, national, or global level, human rights defenders are those individuals who fight day after day to promote human rights who ensure that no person or group is denied the basic, fundamental rights that everyone deserves.  

But what happens when it is these very fighters who are deprived of their rights?  Sadly, more and more of these critical human rights defenders’ own rights are being threatened and taken away.  Defenders are the targets of violence, intimidation, and repression which aim to stop them from doing their critical work, and often carried out by their very own governments.  What can be done to protect these important individuals in the face of repression?  How do they still fight to be effective advocates despite the many obstacles placed in their path?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Demand for Quality Education in Florida Public Schools

By Michelle Nguyen

Florida, a state with one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation, is also a state with one of the strongest constitutional provisions for protecting the right to education.

In 1998, voters demonstrated their commitment to Florida public schools by approving an amendment to the state’s constitution that established a uniquely high standard for public education in Florida. The amendment to Article IX Section 1 holds that the state has a “paramount duty” to adequately provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools."

While this amendment may stand in stark contrast to the realities of public education in Florida, it has created a potential avenue for citizens to hold their state accountable in honoring the human right to education.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Forced Begging in Senegal

By Nicole Vander Meulen

WikiMediaCommons, Barry Pousman
As soon as the taxi stopped, I noticed a few young boys dart out into the street.  They were each holding a rusty tin can, which they shoved into open car windows, waiting for a generous individual to drop a few coins in.  At that time I assumed (along with most visitors to Dakar, Senegal) that these children were simply begging on the street so that they could feed themselves.  The reality was, in fact, worse.

Instead, many of these children were actually being forced to beg for the economic benefit of corrupt religious teachers.  Traditionally, young children in Senegal were sent to learn the Koran at religious schools (daaras) where the religious leader (marabout) was either an extended family member or a man from their village.  In exchange for religious instruction, the children would help the marabout cultivate his land and would go to the homes of community members to collect food donations.  Any begging that did occur was used to teach the children humility, not as a means of economic gain.  Currently, some corrupt urban marabouts force a number of their 40-100 students to beg on the streets.  With the children separated from their communities and often unable to contact their parents, they are now left very vulnerable to this sort of exploitation.  Some of these corrupt teachers don’t even know the Koran.