Updated: June 13, 2015 12:00:44 am
By: TR Andhyarujina
Zena Sorabjee has written an outstanding book for children on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The book is not an abstruse commentary on human rights, but is a primer for high school children who can learn of the basic human rights embodied in the Declaration. Sorabjee first introduced the material for study in her Brilliant Stars School in Tripura. Emboldened by the success of this effort in a remote part of India, she has now published an extremely attractive exposition of human rights for all school children.
It is necessary that the fundamentals of basic human rights be inculcated at the grassroots of any society and not left to be expounded in conferences and courts only. The chairman of the committee on the Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, had rightly stated that universal rights begin “in small places close to home. It includes the world of the individual person, the neighbourhood he lives in, the school or college he attends, the factory, the firm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity and equal dignity without discrimination.” It is in the light of this statement that the author has compiled this illustrated book, which, so far, had not been attempted for our younger generation.
The book explains the content of the human rights in each of the 30 articles of the Declaration with a simple and easily comprehensible story. The stories are accompanied by pictures by the children of the Aseema Charitable Trust, an NGO working for the rights of underprivileged children. There are also easy tips on how to remember the Articles, including notes on their key words and helpful suggestions for group discussions.
For example, Article six of the Declaration states that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” The author refers to the history of 19th and 20th century Europe and the prejudice against Jews, and the present day persecution of Baha’is in Iran. Accompanying it, is a moving story titled A New Lease on Life. It is the account of two children Mariam and Hassan living in a country which does not recognise their religion. The story goes on to talk about the hardships of these children in their country and how their parents had to seek asylum elsewhere. In the new country to which they migrated, their religion was permitted and they got the full freedom “to go to school, to play games, giggle over jokes and dream of the future.” The book has several references to writings of leading exponents of human rights such as Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi.
Zena Sorabjee has two members of her family distinguished in law. Though not a lawyer herself, she has written this book with great passion and a belief that knowledge of these rights will help children become better citizens of the world. In this, she has succeeded remarkably. This excellent book should be prescribed as compulsory study for children in schools in India.
Andhyarujina is a senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Solicitor General of India.
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