The Vision of Human Rights Grows in Namibia

Tuesday 4 July the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek launched the excitingly new Human Rights Visionary Programme. The outreach was pioneered at both Emmanuel Shifidi Secondary School and Highline Secondary School in Katutura.

 The Human Rights Visionary Programme aims to communicate the fundamental principles of the United Nations (UN) verified through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The programme focuses on the first article of the UDHR which states that “all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”  The aim is to spread the vision contained in the first sentence of the declaration which demands for a world where everyone has an equal dignity in practice and not just on paper.

 The 4 main goals of the project are:

1.     To educate High School Learners about the United Nations.

2.     To raise awareness of the importance of Human Rights.

3.     To impart the values of dignity and equality to their fullest extent.

4.     To inspire and spread the vision of an ideal world where the full realization of Human Rights become a reality.

That being said, in Namibia the importance of Human Rights is, unfortunately, not always emphasised in the current school curriculum.  Although there are multiple organisations that observe and report the realisation of the Human Rights in Namibia, with examples including ‘NamRights’ and ‘Ombudsman,’ there are not sufficient awareness campaigns addressing the particular matter of creating a Human Rights culture in schools and subsequently society as a whole.

Schools are the best places to start exposing people to the core principles of United Nations (UN) because children are more receptive to novel concepts and because they will be responsible for leading Namibia, and Africa in the future.

 Students at both schools engaged in a dynamic and thought-provoking presentation that began with a brief overview of the UN structure and its major responsibilities in the world today.

Students then expressed their concerns for some of the major social and economic challenges facing Namibia and the world at large. After that, students were introduced to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set a foundation for the 2030 Agenda, and provided the students with a framework to comprehend the mechanisms the UN uses to respond to global crisis.

 Although students understood the goals of the SDGs, it needed to be clear how Human Rights stood as the foundation of UN activities. The UNIC team used videos and visuals to outline the history of Human Rights, and explained the necessity of being aware of one’s own human dignity within any private or social context.

The message was evidently clear that neither the opinions of those close to us, including family and friends, nor that of larger societal institutions, governments, political parties or international organisations, should ever undermine our understanding of our universal Human Rights. That, as human beings, we all have an essential sense of worth, by virtue of being human, and that deems us worthy of respect and dignity.

For many of the learners it was an eye-opening experience to know that there is a history of human endeavour focused of giving everyone, everywhere a right to dignified life no matter their circumstances. It was an emotional and fun-filled experience for the learners as they were able to reinforce their self-confidence with the historical change that the UDHR has brought to the world.