Personal and Collective Responsibility- Activity 1 (4/12)
How can an individual or community take personal or collective responsibility in a society that is indifferent towards the lives of sex-workers and their children? What steps can we take to turn our awareness about human rights abuses into sustainable and meaningful social action?
Note: For additional materials on how to teach human rights issues in your classroom, instructors might consider reviewing the UDHR introductory lesson in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Poster Series and Teacher’s Guide. For more information on obtaining a copy of this guide, see Human Rights Education: Teaching Guides
In the documentary Born Into Brothels, the childrens’ choices and actions are limited by society’s refusal to educate them and nurture them so that they can be integrated into communities outside of their own. In Calcutta, prostitution appears to be an apparent part of life, yet the sex-workers and their children are routinely denied their universal human rights. Thus, the single most compelling question that arises is: how can this group find a voice? How can various groups, which the law neither protects nor acknowledges form a sense of community? How can these individual children make choices and take actions that will impact the larger forces that continue to objectify their existence? Do these individuals have the power to create sustainable and meaningful change? This lesson will explore the power of individuals both in the film and in our own communities. The first exercise will outline the steps that each individual can take in creating a socially conscious global community. The second exercise will take an inside look at how we can generate cycles of positive action to eliminate human rights injustice within our communities, countries, and even the world.
This is a follow-up activity to Exercises 1 and 2 of the Personal and Collective Responsibility lesson.
This is part 4 of 12 from the Born Into Brothels Curriculum Companion. To view the entire curriculum, visit: http://www.takingitglobal.org/resources/toolkits/view.html?ToolkitID=1177.
Time Required: apx. 1 hour/one class
Students will be able to:
• Understand the steps that one can take to turn awareness of a human rights abuse into action against that human rights abuse
• Analyze the compelling factors which can influence personal action in any given situation
• Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of ‘power of the individual’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘positive action’
• Brainstorm ways in which an individual could take responsibility, either personally or collectively, to create effective and sustainable change in situations of human rights abuses
*Note: Encourage students to be sensitive towards any person that they choose to learn and activate about. Make sure students gain consent from all involved parties*
*For more information on the Freirian 7-Step Cycle, please see Exercise #1 of this lesson*
After exercises 1 and 2, students should have a comprehensive idea about how they as individuals can become educators in their own way. In order to encourage them in their own roles in creating a socially conscious global community, you could engage them in the following activity:
1. Ask your students to spend a few hours during or after school to observe their surroundings. Ask them to look for human rights issues that they see every day within their communities. These could be things or situations that they have become numb to or have chosen to stay quiet about. For example: on a student’s walk home from school, she may notice a homeless person sitting on a park bench everyday. She knows that it is unfair for that person to live his life outside in the cold day in and day out. Yet, as a student, he/she feels powerless in the matter and thus decides to stay quiet about the issue. Request that your students write down on a flashcard two or three examples of similar issues or situations within their own community that they have in the past disregarded.
2. When your students return to class the next day, collect all of their flashcards and redistribute them to other students. Allow students some time to review their new flashcards. Ask them to volunteer participation about the issues that they have found on the other student’s flashcard. Has this student witnessed those issues as well? If so, did he/she write about this issue on his/her flashcard? Why? Why not?
3. Divide the class into four or five groups. Challenge them to read through the flashcards of every student in that group. Ask them to work together and to pick one issue that they think is the most striking or important.
4. After they settle on one issue per group, ask your students to spend about 15-20 minutes trying to devise an activism strategy for that particular issue. What can they do to raise awareness about that issue and to start a Freirian 7-step cycle on that issue? For example: regarding the homeless person – Perhaps students could write about homelessness through a human rights lens. Is the lack of shelter the lack of a basic human right? Give your students this example and inquire of them what asking these compelling questions could lead to within their group, within their entire school and within their entire community. Remind students that the activism strategy they want to implement should be modeled on Freire’s 7-steps.
Critical Thinking Questions:
If there is still time after this class, reflect on the following questions with your students.
1. Why is it important to notice these issues and to raise awareness about such issues?
2. Whose job is it to be aware of these issues?
3. Whose job is it to implement change regarding these issues?
4. When you chose your group issue, what factors caused you to pick one issue over another? Ask students how they felt about making the decision to choose a particular issue. Was it difficult?
5. Is it okay to choose one issue over another? Is this better than choosing no issue at all? Ask your students to think about the criteria that organizations such as the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations might develop in order to choose which issues to address first. Reflect on how difficult it is to address issues that need immediate attention over other not so immediate issues that are equally compelling.
6. Is it important for all nongovernmental organizations that are working on a particular issue to have grassroots consensus before acting? Why? How could creating collective group solidarity aid NGOs?
7. What are some methods that you could use to create change in your school? In your community?
8. What are some ways that you could include other members of your community in action on an issue that you may find important?
Optional Extension Activity:
If you would like to continue this topic throughout the semester or school year you could:
1. Ask the groups to implement their activism strategies within their own communities over the course of a few months.
2. Have them document everything that they have done. Have them keep a journal of the difficulties that they encounter as well as the results that they have facilitated.
3. At the end of the semester, allow groups to do a presentation on their Activism Strategy Project that counts for part of their course grades.
4. Hold a student-led informal discussion after presentations. Invite them to come up with their own questions or anecdotes about their own experiences during their “transformative learning processes.”
A copy of the film Born Into Brothels. You can also see the attached document, Resources for Educators- Lesson 1, for articles, organizations and books that explore the topic in more detail.
Web Pages Used
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