Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was written nearly 70 years ago and at its core is the recognition that when we value the inherent dignity (from Latin; dignitas: worthiness) of every human we will create a world of freedom, justice and peace. Little wonder it is the most translated document on earth, its message holding universal value. But whilst the tenets of the Declaration are paramount to a life worth living, they also reflect a thinking that has reached its limit. When the Declaration was written it was enshrined in a belief that a person's dignity is largely upheld by Governments and legislatures, as difficult as it is, it is time for us to wake up and realise that a person's dignity or worthiness cannot be granted by someone or something else. You have to believe in your own worth. (what other people think of you is none of your business!)
Kath and I work with people in Jaipur who have had every human right denied them. Some have experienced child trafficking, others denied access to water, food and education, yet they are the most dignified people we have met. They are a reminder that every human is born wholly dignified, is born worthy, divine and with purpose. The mistake we all make is to forget our own worthiness. The amnesia is so strong that we have given the responsibility for nurturing our dignity to 'outsiders'. Outsourcing responsibility for one's own worth is about as effective as thinking guns will make you peaceful, why put your power in other people's beliefs?
There is no doubt the authors of The Declaration had the right intention, but when policy is both created and implemented because of a fear of outsiders, they do not serve the infinite potential of the human spirit. Eleanor Roosevelt led the United Nations committee, we know she had profound insight into human behaviour when she said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent", but likewise, no one can make you feel dignified, you already are! Dignity is naturally expressed when you choose to value yourself and others for who they are (not what they are), it doesn't take a change in law, it takes a change in attitude, your greatest source of inside power.
"What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us" Thoreau
If you find it difficult to believe that the delivery of Human Rights (and freedom, and equality) is impossible without governments and legislation then it is time to disrupt your thinking.You can have a tremendous impact on human rights as an individual and you can start with your wardrobe. Through our work with I-India, an extraordinary grassroots organisation helping slum communities in Jaipur, we learnt that the greatest human rights abuse on earth is the denial of safe water to people. Women and children are forced to walk hours each day to obtain whatever water they can, this keeps women out of work and children out of school, uneducated and malnourished they become the target group for exploited labour and trafficking. You may feel empowered to know that it costs I-India roughly 5 cents a person to get them fresh water, just think, that $10 fast fashion T-shirt, cheap enough to buy and not even wear, converts into water for 200 people.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom" Frankl
We have learnt from our team in the slums that we are all able to respond to our problems when coming from a space of dignity. Dignity is expressed when you are willing to see possibilities in situations where you have once thought impossible. Whilst so many of us are crippled by a scarcity mindset, we encourage you to flip that mindset and ask yourself 'how able am I to respond to my problems'? A dignified response is full of worth, wholly owning your abilities. When you consent to your own dignity you naturally consent to the dignity of others, and in that space you are free to be who you are, and others are free to be themselves. In a world in so much transition we are being given the opportunity to see things differently, how about us all acting with dignity for a change.