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Little Did I Know: 5 Human Rights That Are Essential To Achieve A Healthy Life For All

Human rights. Probably not a topic that will appear during your chit chat time with friends. But just imagine an ordinary day of yours. In the morning, you get up from your comfortable bed; freshen up in the toilet; make yourself a cup of coffee or tea before leaving for work; handle your job duties at the office, occasionally having disputes with your colleagues; have a quick drink with friends after work; then finish your day lying on the couch or doing whatever you feel like. Does it not sound exciting? Well, today you should celebrate a little boredom in your life. Because you are actually exercising tons of human rights that you take for granted.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists of 30 articles that ensure every individual’s right to be treated equally with dignity. As each article is a grand topic itself, subsequent international treaties, national constitutions, regional instruments, and other laws are further elaborated. At Simavi, we are dedicated to achieving our vision – a healthy life for all. Therefore, we would like to share five aspects of human rights that we actively work to protect through our programmes.

The human right to water and sanitation

In 2010, The United Nations General Assembly explicitly acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.

Even today, 2.3 billion people in the world – one in three – do not have a decent toilet; over 13,700 people die every day from diarrhoeal diseases alone; 31% of schools in developing countries currently have no access to an improved water source.

Simavi’s ‘WASH and Learn!’ programme uses an integrated approach to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviours in schools and communities, aiming at increasing access to, and use of, proper facilities and ultimately strengthening individuals’ capacity to be responsible for their own health in the long-run.

Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses

Child and forced marriage is a serious violation of numerous aspects of human rights. Every 2 seconds, a girl is married before 18 and, very often, deprived of her rights to health, education, make her own choices, and live free from violence.

Through ‘Marriage: No Child’s Play’ programme, Simavi aims at reducing cases of child marriage and the negative impacts on young women and girls in India, Pakistan, Malawi, Niger, and Mali. Simavi works towards the ultimate goal that young people are able to decide if and when to marry and pursue their rights in a supportive environment.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression

This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers.

In developing countries, many young people lack access to comprehensive information, education, and services to fulfill their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, and sexual rights. Socio-cultural norms and values further put women and girls in a disadvantaged situation in the society.

Therefore, Simavi implements the ‘Get Up, Speak Out: For Youth Rights’ programme in seven countries, aiming to improve the socio-cultural and legal environment as well as empower all young people, especially girls and young women, to voice their rights and increase use of relevant services.

The human right to an adequate standard of living, to health, to education, and to work

These are just some of the obvious aspects of human rights issues that menstrual hygiene management covers.

On average, a woman spends seven years of her life menstruating. Although just a simple biological cycle, menstruation brings women in developing countries challenges beyond physical discomfort. The culture of silence and taboos often cause women the feeling of exclusion, shame, and stigma. Girls particularly struggle with lack of sanitation accessories and proper facilities in schools. It is very common that they stay at home for a week each month and eventually they just stop going to schools at all.

Simavi implements ‘Ritu’ programme in Bangladesh, aiming to structurally improve the health, well-being, and social and economic participation of women and girls.

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Women are the most susceptible in an unjust work environment, especially for those living in developing countries where even the basic infrastructure is often not in place.

Ghana and Tanzania have the second and fourth largest inventories of gold in Africa. In Ghana, approximately 50% of the people directly involved in artisanal and small-scale gold mines are women and 25% in Tanzania. These women face discrimination at multiple levels, from having less access to most resources than men – land for mining, income, credits, mining and household commodities – to lacking knowledge and facilities to properly manage their menstrual hygiene and pregnancies. These difficulties seriously hinder women’s opportunities to develop economically and socially.

Simavi’s ‘Golden Line’ programme works towards the goal to empower women economically by improving working condition for women, educating men and women on gender equality, and reducing the childcare burden for women so that they have more time to spend on economic activities.



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