A new Gallup Poll shows that more Americans identify with the pro-life position than they do with the pro-choice stance. I cannot help but remember my experience at the United Nation’s High Level Meeting on Youth last summer. There was a significant pro-life prescence at the conference which left many of us with renewed hope and vigor. Despite all of the effort that is put into making today’s youth seem like a pro-choice generation, a majority of us are pro-life.
More light was shed on the subject by Nancy Keenan, the head of National Abortion Rights Action League. In an excellent post, LifeSiteNews reports that Keenan recently expressed her concern at the overwhelming strength of the pro-life movement among the youth. Even though they are better funded than their pro-life counterparts, pro-choice student groups struggle to keep active memberships on campus. We must keep up the good work!
Yesterday afternoon I attended an event by the NGO Committee on Human Rights. The topic of discussion was “Women Empowered by Learning, Knowing, and Owning Human Rights as a Way of Life.” There were so many different topics discussed that it was really hard to understand what the purpose of the discussion was.
The first speaker, a Human Rights Advocacy Champion, declared her strong dislike of the statement “every human has rights.” This might seem unexpected, but it illustrated her point very well. The reason why she dislikes the statement is that individuals throughout the world do not know what this means. Humans do have rights, she stated, but they must “own them and live them.” This is how “Human Rights Learning” was introduced. It only took a few seconds before the audience was exposed to an example of Human Rights learning. The speaker asked us to recite out loud, as a group, a shortened version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She would say the article number and the rest of the room would recite the condensed version of the article. This made me feel uncomfortable. It reminded me of certain practices of indoctrination that have become infamous during the last century. When we were done with this exercise, the speaker had us repeat, as a group, one more thing, “There is no other option but Human Rights.”
After this, the group attempted to describe the difference between Human Rights Learning and Human Rights Education, which to be completely honest, I still do not understand. The next speaker was a man from Benin. He explained that while education can seem elitist, learning is a process of getting knowledge throughout life and therefore more appropriate to daily life. This man also stated more than once that “all Human Rights are equal,” as if the right to life and the right to participate in one’s government were equally important. The group stressed the importance of differentiating between Human Rights Learning and Human Rights Education but the only distinction I could grasp was that learning was the absorption throughout life of the idea that each person is a subject of rights. Yet the group did describe necessary classes for Human Right Learning so the distinction between both was unclear.
The confused state in which the event left me was not only caused by the lack of clarity in the distinction between Human Rights Learning and Education, but also by the contradiction about the universality of Human Rights. The third speaker was Kishore Mandhyan, the Deputy Director, Political Peacekeeper, Humanitarian Affairs, Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. He stated that Human Rights are “in our genetic being,” that we have to discover them and that they are naturally there. He discussed his mother and father , Pakistani refugees in India who never heard of Human Rights but were completely embedded with them in their understanding of how to approach others. Near the end of the event, however, the first speaker once again addressed us. This time, like Kishore Mandhyan, she stated that dignity is a universal thing, that the group “discovered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in everyone’s life;” yet she proceeded to say that Human Rights have to be given to people. She then used a metaphor of Human Rights as a frame. Yes, according to her, Human Rights are to frame every word that one writes or speaks. The test is whether the word fits within that frame and can bring about the realization of Human Rights. The contradiction, I think, is evident. If Human Rights are universal and innate, why must they be given to people?
The speaker also said to give Human Rights to children and let their mothers know that their children will not be what they, their mothers, might want them to be. The problem with this is that this is a violation of the parents’ Human Right to educate their children which is stated in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
She concluded by informing us that we had just received Human Rights and should go out with high shoulders to give Human Rights to others. After the event I overheard a university professor say that she would go back to her school and have the student repeat these exercises.
The moderator concluded with what she thought was a rhetorical question, “ wasn’t this a stimulating and inspiring event?” Regrettably my answer was “no.”
Yesterday, the Worldwide Organization for Women (WOW) hosted an event dedicated to the health of rural women as a challenge for governments and local communities. Rwanda was presented as an example of a country that relentlessly works to empower women. Dr. Nyirarukundo Shirley Randell , Managing Director of SRIA Rwanda Ltd., spoke of the results that on-the-ground efforts in Rwanda have had.
She began by explaining that Rwanda is one of the only African nations that will achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Between 2005 and 2010, Rwanda significantly decreased its poverty level and achieved its MDG for TB, Malaria, and HIV. Maternal mortality was reduced thanks to the provision of childbirth kits to rural women. Child mortality was also reduced significantly and women with HIV have given birth to healthy babies. The president of Rwanda has expanded free education of women to nine years and hopes to provide 12 years of free education for women by the end of his term. Dr. Randell attributes these victories to civil society and to the government.
What stood out to me the most was her claim that contraceptive use between 2005 and 2010 skyrocketed from 10 percent to 45 percent. Dr. Randell then proceeded to explain that the Catholic Church has instituted a majority of the schools and hospital in the countries, but still does not allow contraception. Because of this, Catholic clinics do not provide condoms and contraception “and there is nothing we can do about it.” So, she informed us, a government clinic is built next to each Catholic Clinic to provide contraception.
I thought this could be further explained so I asked Dr. Randell if the government, or her group, specifically target Catholic clinics or the women who go into Catholic clinics during the Q &A part of the presentation. Before I share what se said, I think it is worth mentioning that not only is the Catholic Church responsible for establishing many hospitals in Rwanda, but also close to 50% of Rwandans are practicing Catholics who trust and obey their church.*
Dr. Randell’s answer was very enlightening. She stated that culture is very constraining, that in Rwanda and in the Catholic Church the culture is still patriarchic. She also stated that Evangelical Christians are flooding Africa with their views about sexuality, something which I think can also be said about her own efforts. Dr. Randell said “we respect the religious belief.” She also said that the government respects that Catholics are under mandate of their leader. And though she might be right in claiming that the government “respects the religious belief”, I do think that deliberately placing a government clinic next to all Catholic health care constitutes targeting of these hospitals by the government.
She then explained the real reason for encouraging contraception. She stated that it is government policy to reduce the size of families from six kids to three because there is a “constant need if there are more children to have more education and healthcare” and the government can simply not afford it. Instead, the government creates clinics with condoms which are the best way to decrease family size. Whether or not the government should invest the money it uses to prevent children into an education system that can sustain more students I leave to your digression, but I do think that warning flags should be raised when governments officially institute such policies.
After the Young Woman Christian Organization (YWCA) about illegal abortion in Nigeria which I discussed yesterday, the floor was opened to questions. Even though the group did not provide any answers, it became very clear that the plans that this worldwide NGO has for Nigeria are contrary to what many Nigerians want.
There were about 8 women who asked questions; only three of these were not Nigerian. To my surprise, all but one of the questions had a prolife tint to them and a rejection of contraception, comprehensive sexual education, and legal abortion. These Nigerian women spoke of the importance of prevention and proposed abstinence education and increased dialogue between mothers and daughters as better solutions for the roots of teenage pregnancy and rape.
Expressions such as “educate women, especially the illiterate ones,” “educate the males” about the proper treatment of women, “let us increase the level of communication with our youth,” and “ it is not too late to preach chastity and virginity” were heard and followed by applause. A Lebanese woman also asked why the government and the United Nations are so concerned with fighting marriage before 18, but doing nothing to prevent the sexual activity of minors. I think it’s important to note that the only woman who spoke in favor of legalized abortion was a Western human rights lawyer.
I also asked a question. The right of a woman to privacy was declared time and time again during the presentation and privacy rights were presented as restrictions on the government; yet the group advocated for measures such as government subsidized abortion and comprehensive sexual education. I asked why they proposed such actions if they were so concerned with, in their own terms, keeping the government outside of the individual’s personal life. They did not answer this question, but it is worth mentioning that one of the women who came with the group and was wearing YWCA apparel approached me after the event to genuinely thank me for pointing that out. The woman from Lebanon did the same thing.
The YWCA might not have done much to address these questions, but they provided an excellent example of how out of touch the “solutions” that their organization proposes are from what a vast majority of Nigerians want.