Monday, December 10, 2018

5 Human Rights We Can't Believe Are Still Abused--And How Girl Scouts Are Tackling Them Head On

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day, a milestone day in this country where we declared that everyone—regardless of race, religion, sex, political affiliation, or any other status—is entitled to fair and equal universal rights. While this declaration marked a monumental change in how we view and appreciate diversity in the United States and around the world, this promise has yet to be fulfilled in its entirety.

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable, yes, but that just begins the endless list of our human rights, and rights that many of us unfortunately take for granted. Millions around the world live without the right to an education, the right to safety, the right to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, and the right to religion. Thankfully, these Girl Scouts are stepping in to create real change on scales large and small.

The Right to an Education 

Observations that Liza Villanueva made as a seven-year-old visiting the Philippines stayed with her throughout her Girl Scout career. Those memories inspired her Gold Award project, the iDREAM (imagination, discovery, research, education, art, and music) Express. Loaded with school supplies, instruments, books, tablets, and a team of volunteer teachers, the iDREAM Express van holds classes twice a week for homeless children in the Philippines and also provides free hygiene supplies, medical care, and hot meals.

The Right to Safety 

While spending a month in India, Pooja Nagpal took her passions for practicing martial arts and preventing violence against women from advocacy to action. After developing a two-part curriculum that combines physical self-defense methods with discussions and activities, she created For a Change, Defend, a nonprofit that teaches teenage girls how to stand up for themselves and work to eliminate gender violence. From rural villages in India to women’s shelters in Los Angeles, Pooja’s organization is saving lives and empowering girls and women across the globe.

The Right to Sanitation & Hygiene

Josephine’s Girl Scout Gold Award project was inspired by a trip to Costa Rica, where she contracted a waterborne illness. Thankfully after a few months of battling the parasitic illness, she recovered—though the experience made her think of all the people who aren’t as lucky. So Josephine took action, joining with Hands Up for Haiti, a medical humanitarian organization that helps people in northern Haiti, to put together and distribute hygiene/maternity care packages. The donation drive she held was a hit! In two days she collected all of the items she needed, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap for the hygiene packages, and baby wash, washcloths, onesies, and blankets and diapers that she and her team sewed using cloth from a local Goodwill for the maternity packages. (They made over 120 cloth diapers and 30 blankets for newborns!) Josephine is encouraging other girls to take up similar projects in hopes of keeping the effort going.

The Right to Religion 

Inclusivity matters, and using your voice to speak up and raise awareness about important issues is what Gold Award Girl Scouts do to create change in their communities. Aliza’s Girl Scout Gold Award project, A Muslim American, reflects this—she sought to educate community members about the Islamic faith, debunking misconceptions and the stigma that surrounds it. She created and distributed Ramadan and Eid baskets filled with fruits, candies, and informational pamphlets about each occasion to churches and police stations in her community; she also delivered presentations on Islam and how the community could band together and be more inclusive with regard to ethnicity and religion. Additionally, she participated in an event called Open Door Day, where she distributed information to over 500 attendees about two organizations she’s working with: one that helps orphan children in Gaza and another that circulates accurate information about Islam. And to make this information available to teens, she created a youth group blog about Islam, with posts written by girls in the community. 

The Right to Clean Water 

Brownie Troop #71729 from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, they knew they had to jump in and take action. Their venture began when they discovered the mom of one troop member was deeply involved in solving the problems caused by the water crisis. That mom, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint and leader of the pediatric public health initiative to battle the crisis, spoke at a troop meeting. 

After some discussion and brainstorming, the girls decided they would write letters to Michigan governor Rick Snyder advocating for the people of Flint, especially the children. In their letters, some girls expressed their anger and disappointment about the water crisis and its effect on their peers, while others urged the governor to take action and find solutions.