In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It includes 30 articles defining fundamental human rights. The first article states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” It goes on to state “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude,” and “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” ("Universal Declaration," n.d.). During my time at the Institute for Humane Education, I have learned about so many injustices around the world. I have already mentioned people being used as slave laborers in the cocoa fields, including very young children ("Child Labor," n.d.). This is also the case in the coffee and tea industries. In Tip 16, I mentioned how many workers are becoming ill while making and assembling cell phones due to the number of chemicals they have to touch. (Wears, n.d.). This is the case for many electronics, including the laptop I am using to write and research this post.
The book told about his journey from being an average 12-year-old to starting an international human rights organization. In his book, he mentions his travels around the world at the age of 12 or 13 and talks in detail about the kids that he met on during his travels. In Bangkok, he mentioned, “There were also children who worked as metal pounders, or in fabric factories, children who made shoes, others in the sex trade” (Kielburger, 1998, p. 91). During and after reading this book, I was honestly dumbfounded. I knew there were human rights violations around the world, but I didn’t know to what degree and I didn’t know that so many involved children.
In the Human Rights class, I went on to learn about factory workers in other countries who were not allowed breaks and worked 14-16 hours per day, some having to live at the factories where they worked. Even recently, I read an article in the August 3rd edition of the Street Roots magazine about the age requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Did you know that children as young as 9 years old can legally work on farms in Oregon? In other states, it varies between 10 and 16 years old (Green, 2018, p. 5). I watched the documentary Stolen Childhoods and saw a young girl picking onions in a field instead of being in school.
She was wearing a baseball hat with an HEB logo on it. HEB is a grocery store chain in Texas, and I was living in Texas at the time I watched the documentary. I had been shopping at HEB earlier that morning and purchased a few onions. That moment has stuck with me ever since. Even though I was working my way through a Humane Education program, I was still unaware of so many things.
Now, I look around my home and at my belongings. Once so freely purchased without a second thought to who made it or where the materials came from or even if they were tested on animals before entering my home. But now I realize that my decisions do affect so many other people, animals, and the planet. In essence, that is what the entire Practical Guide to Conscious Living is about. I didn’t have to change many things or make difficult decisions to live a more conscious life. I want to share my discoveries with all of you, and if you can connect with my stories and tips all the better! It is like, Happy, the documentary I mentioned at the beginning. Knowing I can help and make a difference is what makes me happy.
But back to human rights...Honestly, this post doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of what I learned about human rights issues. I haven’t talked about racism, sexism, discrimination, or privilege and power. It would difficult to cover everything in one post! So this is just a start, and you can expect more about human rights. The next post will be conscious living tips related to human rights.