Right to Life with Dignity

Lately, I have become less snooty about the events I attend. Went to my first Human Rights Day celebration at the National Library in Islamabad. It was arranged by the Pakistan-US Alumni Network’s(PUAN) Islamabad Chapter.

Naeem Mirza, COO of Aurat Foundation, was the keynote speaker. For the most part he talked about something I could easily get off Wikipedia like the story behind Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), or the long list of human rights violations happening in Pakistan. But what interested me was when he mentioned that the first clause of the UDHR was the “Right to Life with Dignity”. I thought I had a right to life, to healthcare, education, practicing my religion and beliefs. But never had anyone told me I had a right to live with dignity. What does that even mean? Dear old Google came to my help and I realized ‘Dignity’ is what everything else stems from. Dignity means knowing your worth, valuing yourself because only when we start valuing ourselves do we start asking for more and understand our rights. Being an entrepreneur myself, the following video by Acumen Fund really struck a chord:

Robert Maynard said and I quote;

Human rights rest on human dignity. The dignity of man is an ideal worth fighting for and worth dying for.

Without dignity there can be no equality. And it begins at home. If I don’t love myself enough because of my weaknesses or failures and hence lack self-respect I give others the power to usurp my rights. Looking down upon one’s self leads to a low self-esteem which makes us doubt what we deserve allowing society or certain segments of it to take over our rights. There can be no equality without dignity. The day women realize they can’t ask for equal rights when they curse men who don’t vacate a seat for them on a bus or when they ask for separate seats in all government institutions they will have a much stronger case. The day people realize they can’t ask for a right to clean roads and public toilets when they throw garbage in front of other people’s homes instead of taking it to the dumpster they will sound more convincing. The day we realize we can’t ask for the right to practice our religion anywhere in the world without being ridiculed when we look down upon minorities in our own country with loathing we will have a better case. In short, we have to earn the right to ask for our rights by giving others theirs.

Lok Natik Theater presented a brilliant skit on human rights. Below is a short clip I was able to capture on my phone-cam.

Brent Beemer, US Cultural Attache to Pakistan spoke at the event:

I leave you with this thought:

Equality lies only in human moral dignity. … Let there be brothers first, then there will be brotherhood, and only then will there be a fair sharing of goods among brothers. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky


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