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December is the Universal Month for Human Rights (learn more about this month here). In the past two years, you could say the focus on human rights has never been greater. The pandemic has shone a harsh beacon of light on many of the human rights issues facing us today — from racism to ableism to income inequality. This year, we decided to ask our students what human rights issues matter to them and why.

Here is what some of them said:

“A human rights issue I am passionate about is climate change.  It comes as no news that in recent years, with more technology and industrial advancements, global warming and the emission of harmful gases that deplete our ozone layer has become more prominent. The effects of these happenings are evident around us. Two years ago, it snowed in November. On the 15th of December this year, the temperature was 70 degrees Celsius. The humanitarian crises like loss of homes to flooding and natural disasters have quadrupled, following advancements in technology that worsen climate change. Through her book, The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler predicted the egregious effects of global warming, including the fact the world would be inhabitable and the necessities of life out of reach. I am very passionate about climate change because, despite efforts to find life on other planets, Earth is the one place that is 100% suitable for optimal living for the homo sapiens species. If we do not take care of our habitat, it would, in turn, not take care of us. The “tragedy of the commons” is increasingly evident all around us. As a former green teen and an advocate for climate change, I urge us to contribute in every way possible to keep our planet healthy. Little actions like proper waste disposal, starting a little garden, recycling waste, amongst others, would go a long way in materializing the positive change we wish to see in how we treat our green Earth.”

Christabel, Gary Comer College Prep

“I am passionate about human trafficking. I think it is very unfair that women who escaped can be locked up as if they committed a crime. If they were being trafficked in the first place, obviously there are some people in a higher power than police so it makes sense that they would be scared to talk.”

Promize, DRW College Prep

“I’m passionate about women’s rights. I believe women should receive equal opportunities. It’s sad that sometimes women are seen as being inferior to men.”

Christopher, Mansueto High School

“I am most passionate about gender, race (POC), and slavery & torture. There are actually a lot more, but these are the few that I like to talk about the most. I’m passionate about these topics because I grew up with these things (well, not slavery and torture, but they are in my culture). Gender is a very big thing with me because I’m transgender (genderfluid), so I always want people to feel comfortable in their skin and feel loved by others. For race, I’m black and I know all the injustices POC have gone through and want to shed light on them.  And for slavery and torture, again I’m black, so I grew up knowing about these things and I want people to know what happened back then and understand where black people are coming and understand our history.”

Skylar, Muchin College Prep

“One human rights issue I’m passionate about is police brutality/racism. I feel like that is a very big issue today, and it always has been. You always see on the news that a police officer shoots an African American and nothing is done, or you see a school shooting and you see nothing to the shooter or you see a white man kill someone outside of their race and nothing happens to the individual. I just feel like this is a very big issue, and shows how terrible and corrupt the justice system is.”

Stephanie, The Noble Academy

“I think a problem in America is being black because, when I go outside, I already have a chance to be incarcerated just because I’m black.”

Ryne, Gary Comer College Prep

“Being anti-racist is an important issue for me. I don’t like how people judge others based on the color of their skin. We should treat others how we want to be treated.”

Alexandra, Mansueto High School

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