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Human Rights Day 2012: Making Universal Human Rights a Reality

On Human Rights Day, MADRE celebrates the hard work and dedication of human rights activists worldwide and across history–including our many sister organizations. This day commemorates December 10, 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration has been translated into 380 languages and dialects worldwide, officially making it the most “universal” document in the world.

This year, Human Rights Day celebrates the rights of all persons-“women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized”-to have their voices heard. MADRE’s local and international advocacy is one part of the work we do every day to advance human rights and equality for women and girls. This department, where I have interned for three months,  aims to put the knowledge and power needed to change policies and practices in the hands of women and girls experiencing violence and oppression,working to create a world where “people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives.”

We work at both the international level supporting human rights policies in the UN and with governments around the world, and at the grassroots level, pushing for international human rights policy to make real change in the daily lives of our partners and the women and girls whom they support.

For example, we are currently working in groundbreaking ways with two of our partners in Haiti and Iraq to translate international human rights policy into rights and resources for women and girls.

In Haiti, MADRE partners with KOFAVIV, an organization that supports and advocates for rape survivors in Port-au-Prince. Working with KOFAVIV leaders, MADRE hosts workshops and conferences that teach Haitian women’s rights activists in Haiti how international UN human rights policy can protect the lives of women and girls there. Our next workshop with KOFAVIV will take place this February 2013.

MADRE is also working with our partners in Haiti in their advocacy for a new draft law that would be, if passed, a landmark in legislation addressing violence against women and girls in Haiti.

In Iraq, MADRE partners with The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)-which has been working since 2003 tosecure rights for women and girls there. OWFI provides comprehensive shelter services for women, providing safety and support to women confronting violence. MADRE also supports OWFI in their current expansion of these shelter services to protect and support LGBTQ individuals in Iraq experiencing violence and discrimination.

This year’s Human Rights Day theme reflects the work that MADRE and our partners are doing around the world: advocating for the voices of marginalized people-whether rape survivors in Haiti, or women and LGBTQ persons in Iraq-to be heard, included and respected.

December 10 is one day, but MADRE and our partners live the message of Human Rights Day year round.