Today, December 10, marks International Human Rights Day. Created by the United Nations on December 10, 1950, this day serves as a moment for the global community to be reminded of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948) and recommit to efforts that protect the human rights and responsiblilties of people around the world. This year’s International Human Rights Day is also significant because it commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which created the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and signified a resurgence of support for progressing human rights.
Along with honoring these high-level human rights milestones, Tostan is celebrating this day by amplifying communities voices that show the grassroots impact of human rights education. Today Tostan premieres a series of participant-produced films from community members in Senegal, alongside partners the Sundance Institute, The Skoll Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the NGO Venice Arts.
In these three short films, which have been produced following training in participant-led media techniques and documentary filmmaking, community members are able to share their own stories about how their lives are changing after learning about their human rights through Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). This form of participant-led media celebrates the right of every individual to have their voice heard and gives the power of storytelling back to communities.
At Tostan, building understanding of human rights is at the core of our approach. First incorporated into our education program in 1996, community members learn and discuss human rights, democracy, and problem-solving during CEP class sessions. They then apply their new human rights knowledge to sessions on health, hygiene, literacy, math, and project management, ensuring a holistic and inclusive education.
Through the Tostan program, understanding of human rights becomes a foundation for all other learning as each human right adds relevancy to different aspects of community life and helps community members develop a framework to solve challenges. For example, when community members in Guinea agreed that everyone had the right to education, school enrollment rates for boys and girls increased and steps were taken to build learning centers.
With an education approach centered on human rights, progress toward achieving human dignity for all can extend beyond International Human Rights Day. At Tostan, we look forward to celebrating and sharing human rights successes through to 2014 and beyond.