Sunday, December 14, 2008

Human rights: when will dignity begin at home?

Where are Human Rights today? That was the question the public wanted to be answered last Wednesday, December 10, at the Humanities Building on the UW-Madison Campus.

Wednesday commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, came together to provide Madisonians with a panel discussion that featured local experts and activists.

I attended the event as a first-time ACLU volunteer and was very eager to learn about advancements in the struggle for human rights. My main duty was to be sure that everyone who trudged through the snow to attend received a pamphlet that detailed all thirty articles of the UDHR.

The crowd gathered to hear a welcome speech from the Chair of the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations, Wolfgang A. Schmidt. He was followed by Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, who delivered a Declaration from the Governor. She broached the subject of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights focused on women. Unfortunately the United States is one of the few countries that has yet to ratify this bill.

We were then treated to a talk by Marquette University professor Barrett McCormick that outlined “Human Rights and Their Development.” He was followed by Reserve Judge Moira Krueger who spoke on the “Hague Courts and Today’s Implementation of Human Rights.”

ACLU of Wisconsin’s Executive Director Chris Ahmuty took to the podium to discuss the ACLU’s involvement in and commitment to human rights and told of several issues they are currently focusing on. Amnesty International’s Angie Hougas rounded out the panel for the Q&A session.

The event came to a close, and I, along with fellow volunteer Dee, collected video-taped statements from the attendees in support of passing CEDAW. The ACLU plans to get many statements edited together to send to our elected officials so they can comprehend how important this issue is to both men and women.

For more information on the UDHR, please visit

For more information on the ACLU of Wisconsin’s CEDAW video project, contact the Youth and Programs Director, Emilo De Torre.

- submitted by Sara Johnson, volunteer for the Madison Area Office for the ACLU of Wisconsin
- photos taken by Tim Michaels