This semester’s Human Rights Week, presented by the Yale chapter of Amnesty International, aims to increase awareness and action on the subject with a special focus on children’s rights.
Through a wide array of activities and cooperation with multiple campus groups, members of Amnesty said they hope to present many diverse students with startling insight into injustices against children. Yale Amnesty International coordinator Tinbet Tecle ’07 said the week has already been very successful compared to past Human Rights Weeks, though some students remain unaware of the ongoing events.
“I just think that we are all in a really wonderful, privileged place, and I want students to be aware of children’s rights,” Tecle said of the week’s theme. “Primarily, the goal is to raise awareness that there are terrible things going on in the world, and there is something we can do about it.”
In order to educate students about an issue of which most people have limited knowledge, Tecle said that the week incorporates a wide variety of events to present students with surprising facts about a number of atrocities. These issues, which range from child prostitution in Mexico to the presence of child soldiers in Africa, are being addressed through different media, such as displays, film screenings and lectures.
The variety of events has appealed to a diverse group of students so far, Amnesty members said. Monday’s screening of the award-winning documentary “Born into Brothels” packed the Saybrook College TV Room, and over 100 students have already signed the different petitions at the tabling stations.
“I think this semester’s has been much more successful,” said Tiffany Wan ’07, a former Amnesty coordinator and one of the lead organizers of the week. “More people know about it, and we have better events.”
Last semester, the focus of Human Rights Week was torture, and the semester before, it was women’s rights. Wan emphasized the universality of this week’s theme.
“We also knew that children’s rights could involve different groups on campus,” she said. “We thought it would be a great way to get these organizations involved. Everyone at Yale knows a child and was a child, so it’s not an issue that seems quite foreign.”
This semester, Amnesty International cooperated with 11 other Yale groups, ranging from the Student Campaign for Child Survival to the Vietnamese Students’ Association, to present Human Rights Week. The group also co-sponsored a lecture given by the human rights advocate Irshad Manji as part of Pride Week, which is also taking place this week along with Tsunami Awareness Week.
Despite the increase of student participation in this semester’s Human Rights Week, some students said they were unaware of the week as a whole and that the events should be better advertised.
“This activity is my first event [as part of the week],” said Abbas Hussain ’07, who attended Manji’s lecture. “I thought it was a great event.”
Hussain said the only reason he knew about the lecture, which focused on the speaker’s views on Islam and human rights, was because he is the president of the South Asian Society, which was one of the talk’s sponsors.
Although Molly Beutz, a lecturer in international human rights, had not previously been aware of the week, she said she was excited about the potential to teach students the language of human rights.
“It’s useful to be aware of this powerful set of terms,” she said. “I think it has a relevance to a wide variety of areas. Once you’re familiar with the issues, you can bring them back into your area of work.”
Alexandra Galin ’06 said she thinks Human Rights Week, which she had not heard about, should be better advertised.
“Talks like this that bring together so many views should be packed,” she said. “I think that if more people knew about this, it would have been packed.”
Chhitij Bashyal ’09 said Manji’s lecture incited him to participate in more of the ongoing activities.
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” he said. “Now I’m going to check up on other events.”
The week will culminate in the final concert in Dwight Hall on Friday, which will feature two Yale bands and a professional hip-hop group. All proceeds from the concert will go towards Homies Unidos, a nongovernmental organization based in Los Angeles and El Salvador which is dedicated to preventing children from joining gangs.