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  3. Human Rights Education in Asian Schools
  4. Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume Ⅰ
  5. Human Rights Education in Schools: A Response by the Documentation, Research and Training Centre

Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Backnumber

Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume Ⅰ

Human Rights Education in Schools: A Response by the Documentation, Research and Training Centre

Justice and Peace Commission
Mumbai, India


The Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Archdiocese of Mumbai was reformed in 1989. One of its objectives is to promote human rights and dignity and to collaborate with other human rights bodies. At the second colloquium held in 1993, the Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC) was asked to undertake human rights education, to ensure a proper understanding of human rights especially among children and youth.

   The rationale for opting for human rights education in schools was due to the realization that the educational system in general and schools in particular have a fundamental role to promote and protect human rights. Values of peace, mutual respect, cooperation, sensitivity to the poor, women, children, indigenous people, environment and social justice should find top priority in our schools which are training grounds for future citizens. What better place to sow these seeds of humanism than in the impressionable minds of our students - our future citizens - the future of this EARTH!

   Through the Human Rights Education program we hope to develop behavioral skills and attitudes that embrace equality, respect and justice. We also hope to clarify and stress the importance of peace, mutual respect and social justice, because this is apparently the need of the hour in India!

   We hope that an awareness of human rights in the Indian context, will infuse in our students a zeal which will give them courage to protect and defend human rights cases not only when they seem difficult, but to start in their very homes.

   There were different options open to us as to the method and approach of the Human Rights Education program that we can undertake. These were conducting ad hoc orientation sessions for teachers and students, sessions for students during their "social service" class etc. We felt that these approaches had limitations because they are not sustaining. Past experiences of schools of social work showed that teachers were only too happy to transfer their responsibilities rather than be directly involved in the process. A response such as this would be definitely contrary to our objective of developing a human rights culture.

Our Philosophy

Training is a vital intervention strategy of the DRTC and we see it as a powerful tool for development, empowerment and social transformation. We believe in participatory training methodologies which are experiential, creative and stimulating. We deplore training curricula that are tailored by "experts" and yet irrelevant to the needs of the trainees. In fact we recognize that participants (in this case teachers and students) are not mere recipients of information but active participants in social transformation with capacities for critical thinking and action. We emphasize on the coherence between content and methods enhancing not only conceptual understanding and skill development but also development of right attitudes and perspectives based on human rights and social justice. Therefore the involvement of teachers in the preparation of the kit was a necessary requisite in order to avoid imposition of our ideas and views on them.


A. Pre-kit

   Soul-searching was focused on how "to feel the pulse", "be the eyes and ears of teachers", to understand their situation and accordingly with them plan the Human Rights Education program. Visiting schools and talking to teachers revealed that in Mumbai, especially in the suburbs, in English medium private-aided schools, (which would be our target) teachers are overburdened with large number of students in a class ranging from about 65 to even 90 per class. Besides vast curriculum, school routines and examination, spare little or no time to reading or updating their information. Some teachers lack enthusiasm or dynamism to prepare creative and pedagogically sound sessions and therefore would not be inclined to prepare human right sessions on their own. Some schools have multiplicity of activities and programs. Human rights education programs therefore would not be enthusiastically welcomed and would be seen as just one more program in the already existing list of activities. It will lose its significance. There was no other known human rights material or books available for schools.

   This reflection gave a direction to our Human Rights Education program and we decided on:

  • preparing a handbook for animators not only of schools (Grades VIII to X) but also Junior College i.e. Grades XI & XII;
  • the topics included would be relevant to students within their experiential framework in the Indian context;
  • the handbook would be broad-based providing scope to the teacher to use the material for value education, social service (social service is an optional subject prescribed for secondary education by the Maharashtra Secondary State Board of Education) and for linking human rights with the syllabus.
   The objectives of this kit was to use the educational process.
  1. to sensitize students/animators on human rights issues;
  2. to develop behavioral skills and values towards a rights culture;
  3. to develop a human rights perspective in the school syllabus.
   Initially, a few selected teachers, social workers and NGOs were invited to prepare sessions on the following topics: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women, children, and environment. Some of their contributions in terms of their stories, suggestions, etc. were incorporated into the drafts which were finally prepared by the staff of the DRTC. The person entrusted with this task was a teacher and also had social work experience and was indeed the right person to undertake this exercise. This was necessary to prepare a comprehensive module. Students were also involved in preparing case studies for group work in the module on Enforcement of Human Rights.

The Format

The Topics selected were:

   1) Understanding Human Rights: This module is divided into three parts:

  1. Introduction to Human Rights;
  2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  3. Enforcement of Human Rights.
   2) Violation of the Child's Human Rights: This is divided into:
  1. Street children;
  2. Child labor;
  3. Girl child.
   3) Women and Human Rights: This is comprised of
  1. Rights of Women;
  2. Violation of the Rights of Domestic Workers.
   4) Environment & Human Rights:
  1. Air, Water, Noise pollution;
  2. Deforestation.

   Each of the modules have their own objectives and each have group work exercises. The group work suggests the month the module can be taught, materials required, celebration day for that topic and also the subjects and chapter that the module can be co-related to.

   Animators were given the necessary instructions on how to use the book:

   1. The sessions are not academic or exam oriented; therefore there is no pressure of completing "portions". Besides, a 35-minute period is rather short to enable teachers and students to explore the entire unit. Therefore a time slot of one hour is suggested. This can be done during the Social Service class, but not necessarily restricted to the social service students only. Two "Value Education" classes can also be clubbed together, to give more time for discussion and assimilation.

   2. An interdisciplinary approach, co-relation is requested as these sessions cannot be compartmentalized. Do not strictly follow the order of the text. There can be co-relation between;

  1. various topics of the books' text itself : e.g. girl-child with women;
  2. between the topic chosen and other subjects taught in school, e.g. Domestic workers with Grade IX English lesson- "Unwashed memories."

   The co-relation in the Group Work relates to the present Secondary School syllabus prescribed by the Maharashtra board.

   3. Please do not confine the session to the four walls of the classroom. Field trips would improve understanding. When dwelling on the unit on "children" you can visit any of the organization working with children to get a first- hand experience. You will find in Addendum II a list of NGOs in Bombay whom you can contact. The schools or associations outside Bombay can identify similar resources in their area.

   4. The personal knowledge understanding and creativity of the teacher will finally be responsible for making the unit interesting and meaningful. The teacher need not strictly follow examples given in the book. The more the examples reflect the daily life of the children, the more chances each student has of adapting and integrating behavioral skill in their attitude.

   5. Bring out the analytical and reflective capacities of the students, indicating that there are no best answers. However, teachers/animators can use some important standards and values in deciding what solutions are workable.

   6. Some practical suggestions that we would like to offer are:

  1. The teacher can appoint a core group of about 5 students per division. These can be animated by the teacher on the various topics in this book. Alternatively, the ever-willing team of the DRTC can animate this core group, who would then help the teacher in all sessions.
  2. The discussion groups in each class can be for a term or for the entire year. Each group then can be allotted one topic and instructed to collect various materials like newspaper cuttings, magazine articles, video cassettes, etc., pertaining to the topic on human rights throughout the year. This on-going encouragement will keep their interest alive; besides the material collected can be used for exhibitions, "scrap books", etc. This can even be assessed academically in the internal assessment.

   7. To make the sessions more relevant and meaningful, they can be taken up during specific months, e.g. the sessions on "children" can be done sometime in October/November, just before Child Rights day. Every session has suggested months for the module/unit.

   8. Teachers/animators who use this kit, and wish to communicate their experiences, can address their suggestions to the DRTC of the Justice and Peace Commission.

   Thus by integrating human rights values with the school curriculum we have used an "integrated approach".

   Drafts with the above format were prepared and feedback was sought on the authenticity of content, pedagogy of sessions and other technical details like style, format etc. from eminent and experienced human rights activists, child rights activists, women activists, teachers, academicians. A lot of feedback was received and changes were made accordingly.

   A half-day workshop was organized for Principals and teachers of schools and colleges to verify the practicability of the sessions and give suggestions. They were divided into 4 groups according to their interests. The group discussed the content and group work sessions. Valuable suggestions were made which were then incorporated into the drafts again. Some took responsibility to rework the drafts and some others also contributed to the art work.

   The present format of 4 booklets was suggested by this group who felt that small separate booklets were easy to handle and can be simultaneously used by different teachers.

   Various Orientation and Awareness sessions on human rights were conducted for teachers of different schools. About 260 teachers have undergone awareness sessions on human rights. A course on human rights was conducted for the students of St. Pius College (Diocesan Seminary). Students conducted awareness programs for 200 youth in different parts of Mumbai.

Positive Learnings of the Human Rights Education program

Teachers who were part of the process are using the books and finding it useful. The idea of keeping it broad-based has borne fruits because value education has now become mandatory for all schools in Maharashtra and also emphasis on extra information apart from the text prescribed is a criterion for one question in the examination. Keeping these same reasons in mind, we intend to fulfill the need that schools have at this juncture.

   Teachers find the book useful as it helps them in their value education as well as social service periods. NGOs working in schools also find the handbook useful especially the group work sessions and the addendum which suggests lists of video cassettes and the sources that are available. They have held sessions for schools on children's day 14th November (the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru as he was very fond of children); Women's Day 8th March etc..

   About 3 schools have kept it in their libraries for reference This year on the occasion of Teachers Day which is celebrated on 5th September in India, we requested schools to present the handbook as a meaningful gift to teachers. Four schools responded by buying the handbooks for teachers.

   Though prepared for schools NGOs are also using it for their women and children's groups. It is also being used for faith formation. A trade union organization found the child labor part useful. Students doing their Masters in social work have used the book for reference as well as to conduct sessions. An advocate of the Supreme Court informed us that he uses exercises from the group work in his legal awareness programs. A human rights session was also organized for professionals. The unique aspect of the Human Rights Education program is that it did not end with the publication of a handbook "Understanding Human Rights". This resource material continues to be an integral part of the Human Rights Education program.

Learnings - Negative

Concerted and consistent effort is required for Human Right Education program to be sustaining. It is important to establish mutual rapport with the schools through personal visits.

   We realized that somehow the concept of human rights is still new and teachers by and large are not aware of it. We learned that the western concept of human rights is allergic to some educators who suspect domination of western values and feel that emphasis should be on duties rather than rights.

   A recent visit to about 10 schools revealed that Principals are not averse to the Human Rights Education program but because of the multiplicity of activities thrust upon them by the education department find it difficult to accommodate one more program.

   Keeping the above limitations of schools in mind, our next year Human Rights Education program will focus on Institutes of Education (Teacher-Training Colleges). The objective of this new strategy is firstly to reach out to more number of teachers and secondly since the teacher-trainees are new they will be open and interested in the Human Rights Education program and we hope they will use it in the schools they work in.

   We will also advertise in the Examiner (a Catholic news weekly) and make our expertise on human rights and value education available for those teachers and schools that would like to avail of it.

   A tentative framework of the Human Rights Education program for 1998 is as follows:

Broad objectives

  1. to impart information & develop understanding on human rights;
  2. to understand various issues (women, children, environment, communalism, prisoners, armed forces, refugees) from a human rights perspective;
  3. to link human rights issues with the school syllabus;
  4. to develop skills, to undertake, conduct human rights sessions for children, teachers and parents.

Course contents

Concept, development, classification of human rights, international instruments, the UN, India and human rights, the Indian Constitution, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), international/national human rights groups, human rights issues, women and human rights, children and human rights, environment, prisoners, the armed forces, communalism, refugees.


The methodology that will be employed will consist of various types such as lecture; group discussions; field trips; case analysis; presentation by participants; model lessons; use of Audio-Visuals; sharing; street theatre; puppetry; poster-making, etc.

Measurable outcomes


  1. will develop sensitivity to human rights issues which will lead to attitudinal changes;
  2. will be able to link and integrate human rights issues into their syllabus;
  3. will be able to conduct Human Rights Education programs in the school for students and parents;
  4. will be able to handle value education & social service periods effectively;
  5. will, through assemblies & other extra-curricular activities, promote a human rights culture; and
  6. respond to human rights violations, e.g., getting students to write letters to the editor (as part of English syllabus).




   Women constitute half the world's population, perform two thirds of the world's work, receive only one-tenth of its income, and own less than one-hundredth of its property.

Suggested Learning Objectives

   To help the participants :

  1. understand the problems faced by women;
  2. analyze the problems of women;
  3. respond to human rights violations of women.

Women and Human Rights

   Significant numbers of the world's population are routinely subjected to torture, starvation, terrorism, humiliation, mutilation, and even murder because they are female. Crimes such as these against any group other than women would be recognized as a civil and political emergency as well as a gross violation of the victim's humanity. Yet, despite a clear record of deaths and demonstrable abuses, women's rights are not commonly classified as human rights. This is problematic both theoretically and practically because it has grave consequences for the way society views and treats the fundamental issues of women's lives.

   Violation of women's human rights are distinctly connected to their being female - that is, women are discriminated against and abused on the basis of gender.

   Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, entitles all to "... the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." Eleanor Roosevelt and the Latin American women who fought for the inclusion of sex in the Declaration and for its passage, clearly intended that it would address the problems of women's subordination.

   The narrow definition of human rights, recognized by many in the West as solely a matter of state violation of civil and political liberties, impedes the consideration of women's rights.

   The most insidious myth about women's rights is that they are trivial or secondary to the concerns of life and death. Nothing could be farther from the truth: sexism kills. There is increasing documentation of the many ways in which being female is life-threatening.

   Sex discrimination kills women daily. When combined with race, class, and other forms of oppression, it constitutes a deadly denial of women's rights to life and liberty on a large scale throughout the world. The most prevalent violence against women is wife-battering, incest, rape, dowry deaths, genital mutilation, and female sexual slavery. These abuses occur in every country and are found in the home and in the workplace, on streets, campuses, in prisons and refugee camps. They cross class, race, age and national lines. In order to feed their families, poor women in brothels bear the burden of sexual, racial, and national imperialism in repeated and often brutal attacks on their bodies.

Status of Women in India

   In India, women constitute a sizeable proportion of the total population, However, women and children are a grossly neglected section of society. This neglect of women and their oppression is seen in all fields - health, education, employment, politics, etc.

   Women in India have a lower life span than men and the mortality rate among women and girls is very high compared to men. Girls are more often found to suffer from malnutrition than infant boys. The literacy rate for women in India is also very low. It was 39.4% in 1991 as compared to the literacy rate of men which was 63.9%. In fact, in most families, the birth of a girl is unwelcome. Consequently, there are today increasing cases of female foeticide and infanticide. All this has adversely affected the sex ratio in the country from 972 females per 1,000 males in 1901 to 927 in 1991.

   The discrimination against women can be seen at two levels:

  1. At home and in the community;
  2. At work where they are grossly exploited and given unskilled jobs or low wages.
   Women suffer this discrimination and oppressions even though they make a major contribution to the development of society. They are responsible for the family's well being. Right from dawn to dusk, it is the woman who keeps the home going. She cooks, washes, cleans and looks after the children. She is responsible for the upbringing of the children and thus molds the future generation shaping their values, attitudes and perspectives.

   Yet, it is the woman who has to suffer gross discrimination and domestic slavery and harassment - little or no education, early and forced marriage, the burden of dowry, drunken husbands, cruelty of in-laws, frequent pregnancies etc.

   A woman's role is not restricted to home alone. In order to survive and cope with the increasing cost of living, she has to work to supplement the family's income. Besides her work at home, a woman has to labor in factories, or toil in the fields for eight to ten hours a day, most often without adequate wages and social benefits. Though she may do the same work as her male co-workers, she receives much less in return. She has no control on what she earns, it is controlled by the husband.

   The fate of women from the lower socioeconomic groups is worse. Economic conditions force her to live in sub-human conditions. Her living conditions in a crowded one-room tenement, chawl or slum with inadequate water, toilet and electricity facilities have an adverse effect on her. She does not have the opportunity to develop her potentialities. Thus she is deprived of every right as a citizen even though she contributes so much to society.

   A few reports cited from the daily newspapers highlights the plight of women.

   A 25 years old tribal married woman from Sahapur Taluka in Thane district had sought protection from the Thane district rural police to save her from being publicly auctioned on September 1994. She had earlier been stripped naked by the villagers in July 1994. (The Daily, September 15, 1994)

   A Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh was paraded naked by members of the Patel community in Dauna Village. (TOI, Jan. 24, 1994)

   Two police constables in uniform abducted and molested a young woman on the outskirts of Pune. (TOI, January 29, 1993).

   Shalini had stated in a Doordarshan recorded program, that her husband, Praveen Malhotra had set her on fire after pouring whiskey on her. Her in-laws harassed her for bringing inadequate dowry. (Daily, November 11, 1992).

Some Forms of Violence Women Face

   On the street: Eve teasing, molestation, rape.    Workplace: Sexual harassment.    Home: Beating, wife burning, dowry deaths, psychological torture, incest, female foeticide and infanticide.    Society: Rape, flesh trade and forced prostitution, sati, kidnapping, abduction etc.

Every 54minutesa woman is raped
Every 51minutesa woman is sexually harassed
Every 26minutesa woman is sexually molested
Every 102minutesa woman becomes the victim of dowry death

Every 7 minutes a woman is the victim of criminal offence
Every 43minutesa woman is kidnapped or abducted
Every 33minutesa woman suffers from acts of cruelty and torture.

This alarming state of affairs should shake us out of our complacency.

Women Face Violence from Womb to Tomb....

   An honest reflection will make the prevailing discriminations obvious.

   As a girl child...

  1. If a mother has three chappatis to be distributed between a son and daughter, how many would she give her daughter?
  2. At home do the men folk help out in the household chores, like washing plates, utensils, sweeping, cleaning etc.?
   As an adolescent...
  1. Do most girls have the opportunity to pursue higher education and a career of their choice?
  2. Do most girls have the freedom to laugh, talk, dress, travel, return home as and when she feels like?
  3. Does she have a say in the choice of a marriage partner?
  4. Isn't she seen as a burden to get rid off, by getting her married?
  5. Isn't her physical appearance given as the reason for all the atrocities committed on her?
   As a wife...
  1. Isn't she like a piece of furniture set up for auctioning, as seen in the "matrimonial columns" of the newspapers (e.g. "wanted fair, slim, good-looking lady...!")?
  2. Isn't her worth measured by the amount of dowry she brings in? And then doesn't she pay the price if less than expected dowry comes in?
  3. Mustn't she always be respectful, obedient, and a slave to her husband? (If she isn't she gets a bashing up!)
  4. As a working woman, isn't she always made to prove herself?
  5. Isn't she considered "aggressive," "not lady-like" if she is outspoken and expresses her opinion fearlessly?
   As a mother...
  1. Does she have a say in decision-making at home?
  2. Doesn't her role in the house make her seem more as an "unpaid servant"?
  3. Does she have an identity of her own?
  4. Isn't she the "ideal mother " if she sacrifices for the sake of the family which implies giving scant attention to her own health, forgoing her leisure time and overlooking her own needs?
  5. Isn't she the 'punch bag' for a drunken husband or her authoritarian mother-in-law?

Women and Development

   In theory, nations and various authoritative bodies accept that women are to be given equal rights as men. In practice, it is the contrary. Even though women are now employed in almost every area of life, they are not able to assume their full and proper role in accordance with their own nature.

   As the living and working conditions of women worsened, women began to come together and revolt against the social and economic oppression they have to suffer. Various developmental schemes and programs were initiated by national and international organizations with the objective of emancipation and empowerment of women. There were economic schemes, educational programs and other welfare activities for urban and rural women. However, these schemes were not in keeping with the needs of women as well as their social environment. Moreover, the women who were the beneficiaries of the schemes were never involved in planning the programs at any stage. So much so the development schemes were lopsided and reinforced her inferior position in society. Dr. Clarence J. Dias of the International Center for Law in Development lists various categories of development projects which discriminate against women. Below are few examples to help us to see how development projects too fail to do justice to women.

   Some projects that are meant to help women further enslave them, e.g., sewing machines overburden a woman, while the men use the income. Besides, even technology does not keep her at the center of its advancements. For example, in rural areas many tubewells were bored but they weren't used because no one had found out that very young girls did this work and they couldn't work the pump very often. Projects for adivasis too very often are designed by outsiders.

   The expansion of tourism, the employment of women in construction projects (some funded by the World Bank) exploits and displaces women. The very project women work on, displaces them. e.g., women working on the Narmada Dam Project.

   Affirmative action is needed. Justice in development requires doing more for the deprived. Monitoring has to see that victims get their share. "Levelling down" never happens and "levelling up" takes a long time. The primary education budget should allocate more for the disadvantaged girls.

Women on the Move

   Women began to raise their voice against some of the atrocities faced by them at home and at work since late 19th century. The United Nations later took an initiative to improve the status of women by spearheading change and raising awareness of their situation throughout the world.

   Consequently, various conventions and forums for women were set up. Some of them are:

1946Economic and Social Council of United Nations established a commission on the status of women to give thrust to equal rights of women.

1947-67Definition, legitimation and promotion of international norms and standards to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women by the Commission.

1975International Women's Year
First UN World Conference on Women held in Mexico City.
     Themes - Equality
        - Development
        - Peace
     United Nations declared 1976-85 a Decade for Women.

1976UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

1980Second UN World Conference on Women, Copenhagen, focussing on violence against women.

1985Third UN World Conference on Women, Nairobi (Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000)

1990Commission on the Status of Women (reviews implementation of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies.)

1993World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, where women's rights became a question of human rights.

1995UN convened the fourth world conference on women in Beijing, China. The major issues were the world survey on the role of Women in Development and the platform for action.

Women in the Human Rights Movement

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her contribution to human rights. Medha Patkar and Vandana Shiva of India received the Rights Livelihood Award, not forgetting Kiran Bedi also of India who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for humanizing the jail environment. This recognition of women's contribution to human rights is limited when compared to how much women have contributed worldwide.

   The history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was linked to Eleanor Roosevelt and many commentators claimed that without her persistence, the Declaration would not have been drafted or adopted.


Celebration Day: 8th March - Women's Day
Month Suggested: End of February
Time Suggested: 1 hour
Group Size: 8 - 10 for a group discussion
Materials Required: Slides, Video cassette
Co-Relation: Grade IX
Marathi Chapters - I & VI
Hindi Chapter - XII
Civics - Challenges facing our country.


Teacher arranges for an audio visual on women. Refer to Addendum III (list of video materials).

This could be followed by an input session.


Teacher puts up statistics on the violence against women on the board and gets each group to discuss one issue. Questions for discussion: Is it true? Do you know of anyone in your neighborhood who is a victim? Why does such violence occur? What do you feel about it? Can you do something about it?


Step I: Teacher photocopies the proverbs depicted below and gives each group one old proverb and asks them to analyze the proverb and then coin a new proverb.
Step II: General session: Groups share their finding.
Step III: Teacher summarizes - gives input on human rights violations of women
Step IV: Students go back into the groups and plan how to celebrate women's day in their school.
Step V: Students share their suggestions.



  • An exhibition can be held on 8th March, Women's Day.
  • A seminar could be organized for parents of school children.
  • The new proverbs could be prepared into slogans.


Charlotte Bunch, Gender Violence: A Development and Human rights issue
The Rally - January 1995, AICUF Publication
Katarina Tomasevski, Women and Human rights
South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Training of Trainers in Human Rights