December 10th is Human Rights Day, and 2013 marks the 20th year celebration of the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which supports human rights defenders and brings human rights closer to people. Some of its most significant achievements include the following:
- Economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights and the right to development are recognized as universal, indivisible, and mutually reinforcing rights of all human beings, without distinction. Non-discrimination and equality have been increasingly reaffirmed as fundamental principles of international human rights law and essential elements of human dignity.
- Human rights have become central to the global conversation regarding peace, security and development.
- Additional explicit protections in international law now exist covering, among others, children, women, victims of torture, persons with disabilities, and regional institutions. Where there are allegations of breaches, individuals can bring complaints to the international human rights treaty bodies.
- Women’s rights are now acknowledged as fundamental human rights. Discrimination and acts of violence against women are at the forefront of the human rights discourse. (www.at20.ohchr.org)
PCI has made a significant impact with its programs and initiatives, following the UN’s lead to support and protect human rights worldwide.
Protecting Innocent Victims – Human Trafficking
Common misconception may be that slavery is a topic for the history books; however, human slavery is also a modern day problem, today called human trafficking.
PCI is committed to ending slavery in our lifetime though economic empowerment, access to education, and poverty solutions. PCI has recently created a manual on Trafficking in Person (TIP), discussing the prominence of this issue in Ethiopia. Considering the high migration rates of Ethiopia, TIP persists at higher levels than other African countries. Not only does TIP destabilize local labor markets, it causes a shift in national population, affecting the market and economy. PCI’s manual describes the relationship between TIP and various vulnerabilities of Ethiopia, protection of TIP victims and prevention of TIP. By raising awareness of TIP and providing education on the prevention, protection and prosecution of TIP, PCI is helping to end human trafficking around the world and give people a chance for a better future.
Putting an End to Gender-Based Violence
Hope for Women (Ethiopia)
Women and girls living in Ethiopia’s nomadic pastoralist communities of Afar suffer from a broad range of human rights abuses, including female genital mutilation, child bride practices, lack of education and domestic violence. PCI’s “Hope for Women” program, or Tesfa le Setoche, aims to protect and promote women’s rights. Initially created as a two-year project, it was extended so PCI could replicate its success in three additional areas of Afar. In 2009, project activities more than doubled the enrollment of young girls in school.
International Men’s Day (Botswana)
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an annual international campaign that begins on November 25, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and culminates on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The purpose of the campaign is to link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. As part of the 16 Days of Activism in Botswana, PCI is promoting International Men’s Day (IMD), an observance to encourage the active involvement of men and boys in eliminating gender stereotypes and to prevent gender-based violence. According to Botswana’s Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs, IMD attempts to show that males of all ages respond much more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative stereotyping.
Mobilizing to End Violence (South Africa)
The rights of women in Africa are severely compromised by the frequent instances of gender-based violence. Statistics show that one in four South African women experience violence from their partners. In addition, while only a small percentage of rapes are reported to police in South Africa, the country still has one of the highest rates of reported rapes in the world. In response, PCI and local partners have mobilized many segments of society in an effort to change the social norms and deep-set beliefs that keep violence against women alive. Through the 16 Days of Activism mass media and outreach campaign in 2009 and again in 2010, PCI increased public awareness of these harmful beliefs and issues, as well as its link to the spread of HIV. The daring campaign, one of the first of its kind in South Africa, has reached millions of people through messages disseminated via massive billboards, mobile billboards, media coverage and advocacy events. During the Prevention in Action campaigns nearly a million people have also made a personal commitment to stand up against violence.
Supporting Human Rights – Proactive Initiatives
Gender Equity Commission
In alignment with the universal values of respect, equity and justice, and our commitment to people and the concept of human rights, PCI formed a Gender Equity Commission nearly 10 years ago. Its mission is to contribute to achieving equality of opportunities for health and human development for the women and men with whom we work and serve around the world. We adopt a gender perspective as we proactively identify areas and opportunities for improvement, and implement projects accordingly, thereby allowing individuals to fully achieve their potential, without the interference of gender-based bias, inequity or injustice.
While working towards equity, we embrace differences between women and men and focus on optimizing the potential of all human beings, men and women alike.
We are committed to achieving equity through the activities we implement, the systems we set up, the organizational policies we adhere to, and the organizational culture we foster.
We recognize that to achieve equity, changes are needed, and acknowledge the fact that true change starts from within each person. In our own organization and in the communities we serve, we share our commitment and work towards gender equity in respectful and clear ways, while respecting individuals’ rights to be uniquely different and to make his/her own decisions.