All in HUMAN RIGHTS

Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The Buddhist principle of karma similarly teaches us that everything we do, every decision we make, has a consequence.  Philosophical determinism suggests that we cannot escape the inherent causality of human existence, and that our actions will inevitably give rise to the effects that reflect our essential morality.  Faced with the imbalances that subsequently blight much of our over-exploited, under-resourced, conflict-riddled world, the question is – how should we live?  

"You wouldn't tell a sighted person, 'oh it doesn't matter if you can't read'.  It shouldn't be any different for a blind person."  The ability to read braille can transform the financial and social health of blind people, of which there are 360,000 in the UK according to the RNIB.  That's why an emerging group of social entrepreneurs and activists have made it their mission to reinvigorate what they call "the braille nation".

Global healthcare should be a fundamental, universal human right.  And yet the reality for millions of people worldwide is that health coverage remains inaccessible and unaffordable. A new documentary explores the lived experiences of the so-called "abandoned poor" and encourages viewers to ask what it would take to achieve the World Health Organisation's goal of Universal Health Care by 2030.

Irreversible species decline, catastrophic climate change, fresh water shortages and global food insecurity – it can be easy to despair when every day brings another slap in the face of a headline. With each new report, hope can disintegrate as surely as the ozone layer. But it doesn’t have to be like this – if we take the time to pause and reflect on the causes of despair, some say there is a chance we can save ourselves.

If days are where we live our lives then stories are where we remember them.  Whether fact or fiction, the telling of tales is one of the most compelling ways to chart journeys and worlds discovered by people Other than ourselves. As children, we relish fairy tales that introduce us to the concept of morality and allow us to invest hope and expectation in imaginary people and their adventures. 

Nearly all the families who belong to the Ugandan Asian Diaspora have either a collection of photographs or a series of tired-looking but carefully-preserved albums in which their past is visually documented. Photographs were one of the few things that were not confiscated by Idi Amin’s military as the Asian community reluctantly and with heavy hearts checked out through Entebbe Airport in October 1972.

How many of us really think about the different components of our being — our identity as determined by our own actions and beliefs, and who we are as perceived by others? For most of us, it isn't until we face a struggle in life — for the right to justice, equality, political representation, even the basic struggle as experienced by all of us at one time or another to belong — that our identity starts to matter in dramatic ways.

“It was the toughest moment of my life.  I was pregnant against my wishes as a result of rape, going to an unknown country, with no support. But I had to face reality.” Speaking from the coffee shack she runs in Nairobi, Jenet recalls the day she stood alone on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, aged 17.  It was just one critical moment on a traumatic journey that would see her subjected to multiple sexual assaults over the next four years.

High up in the majestic rolling hills of Rwanda sit some 100 men and women discussing how they intend to tackle the challenges that have beset progress in this remote village where soil erosion, poor harvests, heavy rainfall, precarious roads and lack of electricity are the norm. From improving their crop yields, to a desire for social structure, the people of Siganiro are eager for change.

Uganda, the peal of Africa and where the Ugandan Asian Diaspora story all began.  But as I go back to the start, it isn't only the tales of oppression and brutality associated with Uganda of the 1970s that I think of, but the expectation of finding answers to some long-held questions about the country as it once was, and as it is now.

Based on the advice of writers from Stephen King to David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Zadie Smith and many more, when I cannot write my designated daily quota of 500 words on one subject, I turn to reading.  I scour the net, my bookshelves and every local bookshop, in search of inspiration, thirsty for facts that might ultimately furnish each of my projects with added authenticity.

Nearly 1,000 people die every year in the Mediterranean Sea, which is fast becoming the graveyard of Europe. Why would anyone expose themselves to this continual cycle of trauma? Often they have no choice, it’s either face death in one country or risk it to another, in the hope that life is surely better elsewhere.  Isn’t this something that we all have a right to hope for – a life unfettered by violence, harassment, poverty and daily hardship?

Documenting the past comes with a frightening number of challenges that at times beg the question, why bother?  With historical writing, the challenges are even more pronounced, particularly the lack of people and sources against which to check your facts.  Depending on how you look at it, it’s either the greatest investigative adventure or a guaranteed route to sleepless nights as the unknown quantities swirl around your tormented mind.

I recently returned from a trip to Geneva, the human rights headquarters of the world, you might say.  Only what struck me from the people I met, the stories I heard and the places I visited was not the undeniable force of activism and political will that characterises the city, but the sad sense that for the people it represents, the human rights movement is losing its grip.