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We Can All Be Human Rights Defenders

Recently, our fourth graders have been studying an interdisciplinary unit about what makes us who we are and within this, they have been learning about human rights. Last week, Indian Human Rights Lawyer and Defender Dilip Chakma visited their class to talk about a range of topics and issues associated with human rights. He led an interactive and collaborative session with our grade 4 students, ensuring everyone had the chance to share their opinions. Welcoming an activist such as Mr. Chakma to ASH, located near the city of peace and justice, is an integral part of the #ASHexperience and felt extra special during the week we celebrated our international festival with the theme of peace and justice.

Mr. Chakma began his session by asking them what they think a lawyer does and many hands sprung into the air with many definitions offered around the room. Impressed by the students’ knowledge, he summarized that, “a lawyer is someone who can help you when your rights are violated.” He then went on to explain how he works as a human rights lawyer for the Chakma indigenous people (a community which he himself is a part of) in India, where the government has enforced discriminatory laws and policies upon the group.

In order to further illustrate what he does and the rights he is fighting for, Mr. Chakma played a short video about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30 articles that make up this declaration. He then asked the students for their contributions on what they understand human rights to be, drawing on what they have learned in class and from watching the video:

“The right to believe whatever you want” (religious practice/freedom).

“Women should have the right to vote” (gender equality).

“Just because you’re from another country, I won’t treat you differently” (equality no matter race or ethnicity).

“Everyone should have the rights to resources, food and shelter” (equal rights to the world’s resources).

Dilip was impressed with the fourth graders’ knowledge on human rights and it was clear he was enjoying engaging with these young learners on a topic that is so important to him. Mr. Chakma has spent his career fighting against the violation of human rights and encouraged all the students and teachers, “all of you can be a human rights defender, you just have to stand up and speak out”. It was a privilege to hear and learn from a human rights lawyer and defender, who is actively pursuing and fighting for the rights of his community. Thank you Mr. Chakma for sharing your story and being a part of the #ASHexperience.

University preparatory program for ages 3-18. Fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

American School of The Hague