Human Rights Center Blog



Human Rights Photo, Day 8: Ken Light

With These Hands

Onion Picker, Rio Grande Valley, United States, 1979
Ken Light

The farmworkers movement that emerged in the 1960s campaigned to protect the rights of migrant farmers, who at the time comprised a largely invisible work force in the United States. Today migrant farmworkers continue to receive lower wages than almost any other labor group and are exposed to some of the poorest working conditions. Ken Light’s photographs examine the lives of farmworkers in California, Texas, and the deep South. In this photo, a man harvests onions in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

“We’ve become such a 24/7 moving world with a constant stream of news and sound and pictures,” writes Light. “And the wonderful thing of a still photograph is you get to linger, you get to stop, you get to look, you get to think, you get to react, and it is a very different experience. It’s interesting to think about Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” image, which I think is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. It’s an image that has very deep, humanistic feelings and messages about the world and the Great Depression in the United States. And you begin to wonder, what if Lange had lived in a multimedia age? Would we have that iconic image? Would the image be different if the migrant mother was talking?”

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This photo will be purchased for the UC Berkeley School of Law by generous donors. We need to raise $500 more to place it permanently in the law school. Would you like to contribute? Email us at hrc@berkeley.edu.

In celebration of the Human Rights Center’s 20th birthday, we are posting a photo a day from 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.


Human Rights Photo, Day 7: Stephen Ferry

StephenFerry.boy in mine

Thirteen-year-old Tin Miner, Santa Rita Mine Shaft, Bolivia, 1992
Stephen Ferry

For centuries Bolivia’s Potosí mountain has been called the “mountain that eats men” because so many miners, including children, have lost their lives there. Today, thousands of children work in and around Bolivia’s mines, searching for trace amounts of silver and tin.

Writes Ferry:
“For over two hundred years, the Spanish colonizers forced more than three million Quechua Indians to work in Potosí’s Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), supplying nearly half of the world’s production of silver. Hundreds of thousands of miners have died there from disease, accidents, and brutality. Today, men are compelled to repeat the past, working themselves to death in the very mountain that was the tomb of their ancestors.”

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In recognition of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center is posting a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc
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Human Rights Photo, Day 6: Mimi Chakarova

family_photo_Paddle8

Cristina’s family photo, Moldova, 2004
Mimi Chakarova

Mimi Chakarova, a native of Bulgaria, spent 10 years investigating the world of sex trafficking in Europe and the Middle East to produce the documentary The Price of Sex. She says building relationships with the girls–even more than her skills as a photographer–was critical to telling their stories. In this photo, Cristina, a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 16, holds up an old family photograph.

“The young women I followed over seven years grew up in rural villages similar to my own,” writes Chakarova. “Under Communism, we secretly hungered for opportunities in the West and when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, we left hoping for a taste of capitalism. Many young women, however, lacked the skills and education to survive. Desperate to leave, they fell prey to traffickers who sold them to pimps to work in brothels and sex clubs.”

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In recognition of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center is posting a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.


Human Rights Photo, Day 5: Susan Meiselas

NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdistan. June 1992.

Widow at Mass Grave, Koreme, Iraq, 1992
Susan Meiselas

In the late 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s forces took control of Iraqi Kurdistan, killing thousands of Kurds and other minorities. Before entering the territory, the Iraqi air force dropped chemical weapons on scores of towns and villages. In this photo, a widow looks at the remains of family members found in a mass grave in the village of Koreme.

Following the first Gulf War, photographer Susan Meiselas accompanied a forensic team, led by Eric Stover and forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow, to Iraqi Kurdistan to investigate atrocities and exhume mass graves. Evidence collected during the trip was used in the trials of Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali.”

“Working with a small group of Kurds, we excavated where the gravediggers remembered burying the dead,” writes Meiselas about the experience. “Meticulously, earth was shoveled and then brushed away by hand, until finally the skull of a male teenager appeared, bearing a cloth blindfold.” Meiselas was so moved by the trip, she later returned to Iraqi Kurdistan to research and publish Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, a chronicle of Kurdish life told through a mosaic of portraits, diaries, and artifacts.

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In celebration of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center is posting a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.


Human Rights Photo, Day 4: Nic Dunlop

Kompong Cham

Kampong Cham, Cambodia, 1992
Nic Dunlop

Nearly 40 years after the height of the Cambodian conflict, landmines continue to kill and maim civilians of all ages. This weapon of mass destruction in slow motion has led to thousands of amputees in northwestern Cambodia.

The Human Rights Center’s Eric Stover and British deminer, Rae McGrath, conducted the first research on the social and medical consequences of landmines in Cambodia. Their work helped to launch the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which along with its director Jody Williams, won the Nobel Prize in 1997.

“When I began working in Cambodia in the early 1990s,” writes the Bangkok-based photographer Nic Dunlop, “I became obsessed with the problem of landmines and what they were doing to ordinary people. I took the pictures with a burning anger and desire to see these weapons outlawed.” Dunlop’s photographs helped galvanize public opposition to the production and distribution of landmines worldwide.

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In celebration of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center will share a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.


Human Rights Photo, Day 3: Jean-Marie Simon

Religious Procession, Nebaj, Guatemala, 1982 Jean-Marie Simon

Religious Procession, Nebaj, Guatemala, 1982
Jean-Marie Simon

During the 1980s Jean-Marie Simon documented the violence perpetrated by the Guatemalan army on largely indigenous populations in what was called a “scorched-earth” campaign. Over three decades some 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or disappeared. Simon photographed both brutality and beauty–often side by side.

Writes Jean-Marie Simon:
“In the early 1980s, I traveled throughout Guatemala at the height of President Ríos Montt’s “scorched-earth campaign” against indigenous communities suspected of sympathizing with the guerrillas. Most of my photographs depicted scenes of violence and destruction, but, occasionally, I paused to capture moments of ordinary life. The portrait of the Ixil schoolgirls was taken just after photographing the bullet-riddled corpses of four men suspected of being guerrillas at the local army garrison up the street. Dawn was taken in Nebaj, Quiche, during a trek over the mountains to Acul, a neighboring Ixil village where the Army had killed 46 men, separating them into groups called “Heaven” and “Hell.” Those who went to “Heaven” were forced to bury those who went to “Hell.” I took the photograph of a solemn feast day procession in Nebaj two years after the Army had subjugated that population into a choice of submission or death. Photographing moments of tranquility and amity in the midst of a civil war may seem pointless—I certainly thought so back in 1980. But I later realized that those same images stood as a stark counterpoint to the brutality of the Guatemalan conflict by honoring the poignancy and dignity of a people under siege.”

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In celebration of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center will post a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience.

To learn more about the photographs and the online auction, visit envisioninghumanrights.com or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.


Human Rights Photo, Day 2: Thomas Morley


Rose Lakue. 65 years of age and married with 5 children. In 2002 her eldest son was abducted by the LRA when they attacked her home. During the attack her husband was killed and everything was taken and her home was burned.The hands of Rose Lakue. 65 years of age and married with 5 children.In 2002 her eldest son was abducted by the LRA when they attacked her home. During the attack her husband was killed and everything was taken and her home was burned.

Rose Lakue, Uganda, 2005
Thomas Morley

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, ravaged northern Uganda from 1986 through 2009. The LRA abducted children to be soldiers and sex slaves, massacred villagers, and displaced more than 1.7 million people.

The LRA killed 65-year-old Rose Lakue’s husband, abducted her eldest son, and burned down her home.

Photographer Thomas Morley and HRC’s Eric Stover traveled to the Amida camp for the internally displaced and other camps in northern Uganda to document the violence. They interviewed and photographed survivors like Rose who were willing to tell their stories.

Writes Thomas Morley:
“Outside the Amida camp, under a stand of trees, I set up a wooden chair and sent a messenger inside to see if anyone was interested in having their photo taken. Over the next two days, to my utter surprise, dozens of women appeared in their best clothes, wearing what little jewelry they possessed. Younger women helped older women to sit under the trees, waiting, in turn, for me to take their pictures. I was awestruck and humbled by their quiet dignity and courage and by their determination not to be forgotten.”

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In celebration of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center will send you a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience. To learn more about the photographs and the online auction to benefit HRC’s work, visit envisioninghumanrights.com
or paddle8.com/auctions/hrc.

 


Human Rights Photo, Day 1: Gilles Peress

Forced Separation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1993 by Gilles Peress

“Forced Separation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1993″
Gilles Peress

In Gilles Peress’s photograph “Forced Separation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1993,” family members are forced to flee while others are left behind during a conflict marked by ethnic cleansing, rape, and mass killing. Eric Stover, the Human Rights Center’s faculty director, worked with Peress during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and its aftermath. This photo, Stover says, captures the anguish of families being torn apart and the uncertainty of not knowing whether it is safer to stay or to go.

Gilles Peress raises the dilemma of human rights photography:

“I keep asking myself the fundamental question: Can human rights photography, like 18th century novels, be a vehicle for empathy? Can photographs motivate viewers to engage with human rights issues and bring about real change? As we know, badly used photography can be a vehicle for propaganda or emotional exploitation of the worst kind, and can ultimately desensitize viewers. Alternatively, if we accept the postmodernist argument mentioned above, we run the risk of photographs not being taken and entering a black hole of not seeing and a complete absence of consciousness. Which do you choose?”

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In celebration of our 20th birthday, the Human Rights Center will post a photo a day for 10 days. The photos come from the 10 world-class photographers who have generously shared their work with the center as part of the Envisioning Human Rights exhibit curated by Pamela Blotner at Berkeley Law this fall. Each photo touches on the center’s work with people who have suffered injustice and demonstrated great resilience. To learn more about the photographs and the online auction to benefit HRC’s work, visit envisioninghumanrights.com.


Sex & Ed: The keys to unlocking a new future for girls

How asking for underwear and menstrual pads in northern Uganda breaks new ground 

Students at the Pader Girls Academy in northern Uganda launched a letter-writing campaign to ask for menstrual pads and are also sewing their own reusable pads.

Today we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, a date set aside each October to bring attention to the needs and rights of girls around the world and to encourage activities that will help girls to realize their power and achieve their potential. Here is why the Day of the Girl matters and why the weight of the #dayofthegirl movement can’t be distilled to a tweet.

In May, I packed my bags for east Africa to fulfill a summer internship requirement for my Masters of Public Health degree. Awarded a University of California Human Rights Fellowship from the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law, I would spend three months at Pader Girls Academy (PGA), a boarding school in rural northern Uganda. I aimed to create the school’s first-ever sexual and reproductive health curriculum.

I quickly learned to back up a few steps.

Uganda tells us a lot about the experience of the “girl child.” Seventy percent of Ugandans are 25 years old or younger and 25 percent of Ugandan girls aged 15–19 are pregnant or already have a child. Discrimination against women in Uganda is a result of rules and practices that explicitly exclude women, such as the traditional policy that requires schoolgirls to terminate their education for two years if they become pregnant. Though policy has been overturned, many institutions continue to adhere to the original rule. To further highlight the lack of agency that Ugandan girls experience, the most recent Demographic Health Survey reported that 77 percent of girls ages 15-19 are not allowed to participate in household decision-making.

Girls across the developing world share these complex barriers to health, education, and empowerment. However, the girls of northern Uganda face an additional challenge.

The country continues to suffer the aftermath of a 25-year rebel war, which was characterized by infamously brutal “recruitment” tactics. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)—the rebel group at the heart of the violence—abducted an estimated 60,000–80,000 people throughout the course of the conflict, manipulating young boys to fight and forcing young girls to act as “brides” to high commanders.

As the conflict drew to a close, many abductees escaped or were released. But coming home was not always celebratory or even possible.

Adolescent girls who came out of the LRA often brought with them their children who were born in captivity and fathered by rebel commanders. These young women faced enormous barriers to acceptance from their families and communities and challenges reintegrating in society. Pader Girls Academy (PGA) was founded for them.

PGA is the only school in the region that allows young mothers to keep their babies with them as they continue their studies. The school even provides free childcare. PGA has opened its arms to child mothers and other vulnerable young women beyond the original former-abductee population.

During my time in Pader, I surveyed these students, interviewed their teachers and conducted focus groups to better understand their needs and desires for sexual and reproductive health. My students did want information, but they also wanted something much more basic: underwear, soap, and menstrual pads.

I realized that if I didn’t own underwear, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about my long-term family planning strategy either.

In the United States, the average woman spends $150 each year on menstrual hygiene products. Many families in rural Uganda earn less than $150 in an entire year.

According to some studies, 66 percent of girls know nothing about menstruation until they start their menses. Imagine how traumatic this could be. Most girls at PGA use rags or old t-shirts to stuff in their underwear during their period. Most can’t afford disposable pads and many cannot even afford underwear. If blood soaks through their clothing, they may skip classes to avoid the embarrassment. According to a UNICEF study conducted in Uganda, 61 percent of girls reported missing school due to their monthly period.

Some of my students told me that girls’ inability to afford pads was a key reason that so many became pregnant. What? The causal pathway was not immediately clear to me.

The students explained that when a girl cannot afford pads (or clothing, transportation, school fees, etc.), an older man may offer to pay for those things and later expect sex. This exploitation coupled with the extreme lack of family-planning knowledge contributes to Uganda’s high school drop-out and teen pregnancy rates.

After listening to these needs and concerns, I organized an advocacy workshop. The head girl of the school, Grace, selected a few girls from each grade who were considered the “best writers.” I worked with them to identify and articulate their needs and to communicate those needs to key decision-makers.

The girls wrote letters to companies such as Hanes and Kotex on behalf of the school. They wrote about their dreams and their challenges, describing how donations of basic hygiene resources would have a positive impact on the trajectory of their studies.

The response was overwhelming. The girls’ letters sparked a conversation between Lunapads, a Canadian company that sells reusable menstrual pads, and me and ultimately led their Ugandan partner company, Afripads, to donate “hygiene kits,” to every student at Pader Girls Academy. Each kit contains several pairs of underwear, a set of reusable pads, and a bar of soap.

The students were thrilled. At our end-of-term assembly, we recognized the girls who wrote the letters and applauded them for their initiative and their service to the school. It was a powerful moment.

Building on this momentum of self-sufficiency, the tailoring instructor of PGA and I identified a simple pattern and local materials to sew reusable pads ourselves. We taught the vocational students how to sew their own pads and encouraged them to make extras to sell in their home villages over the term break.

PGA is a community of girls who have been stripped of their power. Poverty happens to them, sex happens to them, pregnancy happens to them. To see these strong young women reclaiming their voices, taking initiative, and finding a sense of control over even one aspect of their lives is thrilling—especially when that one seemingly small thing—menstruation— can have such a ripple effect on other areas of their lives and on the rest of their lives.

On this International Day of the Girl Child, we must recognize that educating girls is a priority that goes hand-in-hand with ensuring that their basic needs are met—and working with them as they regain their voices to ask for what they need.

Maggie Crosby is a student in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and a 2014 Human Rights Fellow from the UC Berkeley School of Law. 


Human Rights Fellow dispatch: views and visuals on Gaza

As part of my internship with Visualizing Palestine, I went through the names and ages of those killed in Gaza during the recent conflict, including those of more than 450 children. Despite the divisiveness of the  Israeli occupation of the West Bank and their blockade of Gaza, I thought that surely the numbers of dead children would stir empathy on both sides. But many in the United States can only support Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ rockets, not the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves from Israel’s siege.

The United States was the only country on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council to vote against an investigation into Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and the Senate voted unanimously in favor of Israel’s ground incursion. I do not condone violence by either side, but what is lost in the debate is the disproportionality of the violence inflicted. This is what Visualizing Palestine has tried to show with these three infographics.

One of the infographics is an update to the Timeline of Violence that charts the deaths on both sides. If all human life is equal then why is there not more outspokenness in the United States against Israel’s violence against the Palestinians? The second traces ceasefire violations by both sides since the last Israeli military operation in Gaza in November 2012. Although Israeli violations were more frequent and more deadly, why—especially in the United States—do we only hear about Hamas’ rockets? The third infographic draws a comparison between the terror experienced by the United States on September 11th, and the terror experienced by the Palestinians of Gaza so many times in recent years. It tries to communicate shared experiences of grief, while contrasting stages of healing and recovery, showing how the people of New York city mourned and memorialized their losses, while their counterparts in Gaza were not allowed to recover when they have had little respite from Israeli violence and blockade.

More than 40 percent of Gaza’s population is under the age of 14. This is a generation growing up knowing only war. In my research for these three infographics for Visualizing Palestine, I took down many of the names and ages of those children who have become victims of this violence. If their deaths cannot change minds, and hopefully change my country’s policy, then I do not know what will. 

The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
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