[Asia] From Student to Human Rights Defender: the Power of Human Rights Education

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24 Jan 2020
The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR)

The UN General Assembly launched the World Programme for Human Rights Education to develop knowledge and skills, to promote a framework for actions to be taken, and to strengthen collaboration at all levels. The programme encourages everyone to uphold their rights and those of others. Elena Ippoliti, from the Methodology, Education and Training section of the UN Human Rights Office, says that human rights education can change lives. The program’s fourth phase started this year and focuses on youth—key agents in the realization of human rights.

Premalatha Tamilselvan is a Dalit, a member of a group also known as ‘untouchables’, who are excluded from Indian society. They are suppressed and denied basic human rights. When Tamilselvan was in the eighth grade, thanks to a program organized by People’s Watch and supported by UN human rights, students and teachers in her school learned about rights and equality.

At the age of 21, Tamilselvan could speak about caste discrimination in education at the Human Rights Council's Social Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Today she has a BA in History, and later she wants to become a lawyer and advocate for ‘people who need justice’. She says that caste-based discrimination is one of the main problems in India, and she is trying to fight against structurally embedded discrimination. She believes that human rights education in school could help, and youth play a crucial role in creating a better society for the future, where people are free and equal.

Her story was featured in a documentary, A Path To Dignity: The Power of Human Rights Education, co-produced by UN Human Rights. 


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