American kids take it for granted they can go to school and get an education, but a Pakistani girl was shot in the head for speaking out in favor of a girl’s right to an education, Bozeman students learned Monday during a Human Rights Day Celebration.
The shooting of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was nearly killed by terrorists two months ago, is just one example of human rights under attack, 64 years after the United Nations ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.
Six speakers were invited Monday to talk on the anniversary to Chief Joseph Middle School students. Emma Bowen, 13, said she came away from the event feeling “how lucky we are.”
Fellow eighth-grader Malia Bertelsen said she was surprised that it wasn’t until after the murder of millions of people in World War II – including Jews, homosexuals, disabled people and gypsies — that a document listing worldwide human rights was ratified. “That’s crazy,” she said.
Holly Fretwell, an adjunct faculty member in economics at Montana State University and research fellow at PERC, the Property and Environmental Research Center, talked about the Pakistani girl’s story and the right to liberty and self-determination.
“The freedom to do what you want to do without hurting somebody else, is the ultimate human right,” Fretwell said.
Fretwell also talked about the importance of property rights, and the danger to the clean water, fisheries and the environment when there are no property rights. “If nobody owns it, who’s going to take care of it?” she asked.
Billy Smith, an MSU history professor, talked about slaves who tried to escape in early America because they had no human rights.
“All men are created equal,” written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, is “one of the most important phrases in American history and world history,” Smith said.
But in Jefferson’s day, many didn’t believe the idea applied to slaves, or to women, Smith said. He displayed a 1769 newspaper ad Jefferson published offering a reward for the return of his escaped mulatto slave Sandy.
If you had no rights, Smith asked students, what would you do? Some slaves started to run away after Northern states banned slavery. Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave, was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and helped about 250 slaves escape to the North. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, advocated abolition to Abraham Lincoln.
Slavery still happens today around the world and even sometimes in the United States in the “underground” economy, Smith said.
The speakers were introduced by Bozeman disc jockey Missy O’Malley, who told students that human rights “hit home with me, personally.” Without freedom of speech and expression, O’Malley said, she wouldn’t have a job, and everyone would have to wear the same clothes.
“We are very lucky,” she said.
The event was sponsored by CJMS’s Million Ways Club and organized by Spanish teacher Jan Krieger and parent Aida Murga. Student Finn VaughanKraska, 14, said the Million Ways Club volunteers at the food bank and takes on other projects. “It’s fun to make a difference,” he said.
At Irving School, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was read, according to parent volunteer Vickie Edelman. Bonnie Satchatello-Sawyer, director of the nonprofit Hopa Mountain, spoke to students, who made drawings for a large paper quilt to illustrate rights.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2633.