In 1948, every fundamental and inherent human right of all citizens with no exception to their nationality, sex and gender was set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Since its formal inception in the 1950s, the Universal Declaration has been accepted in more than 500 languages and has been a significant foundation to more than 60 human rights instruments. The Declaration was established as a standard of achievement to be attained by individuals and societies through national and international levels in order to procure their universal recognition and observance.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was widely admired as America’s first lady from 1933-1945, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt – the 32nd president of United States and United Nations’ diplomat and humanitarian and chairperson. Eleanor Roosevelt’s continuous and determined work and dedication in human rights and social justice was the driving force for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The First Lady’s lifelong humanitarian achievements was instrumental in the acceptance and implementation of the human rights of the Declaration. Though Eleanor Roosevelt’s work is relentlessly praised and inspirational, there were many other strong and dedicated women who significantly contributed to the internationally recognized declaration that deserves equal admiration and praise.
Hansa Mehta was known for her activism for women’s rights in her country, India and in global scales. Besides, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hansa Mehta was the only other female delegate of the United Nation of Commission on Human Rights from 1947 to 1948. Her change of words in Article one of the Universal Declaration from “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” was widely praised for its inclusiveness and non-discrimination along with the efforts of Minerva Bernardino- a diplomat and feminist leader from Dominican Republic. The diplomat’s role was significant for the inclusion of the phrase “the equality of men and women” in the Universal Declaration. Along with her contribution to the Declaration, Minerva Bernardino together with Betha Lutz from Brazil and Isabel de Vidal of Uruguay were key contributors in advocating for women’s rights and nondiscrimination based on gender in the United Nations Charter in 1945 making it the first global and international agreement to acknowledge equal rights of men and women. Begum Shaista Ikramullah from Pakistan emphasized on the importance of freedom, equality and choice in the Declaration throughout her 81 meetings spent on the draft of the declaration as a delegate to the General Assembly’s Third Committee on social, humanitarian and cultural matters. The delegate seeks the opportunity on Article 16 on equal marriage as a fight against child and forced marriages.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner direct the annual observation of Human Rights Day on the 10th of December- the date the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The day is observed by many of the Declaration’s international communities with annual themes. Recover Better- Stand Up for Human Rights is 2020’s theme related to the current global pandemic. As the world begins to regress back to its natural pace while adhering to the international health regulations, this year’s theme ensures and provides importance to the recovery efforts. This year, the day would acknowledge the failures of human rights brought about by the pandemic and to employ human right standards to address systematic and inter-generational inequalities, discrimination and exclusion exposed by the pandemic. The commissioners aim to call actions by engaging with the public, their partners and the UN to establish practical and inspirational examples to recover better and to reaffirm Human rights as a concrete integrated aspect of all societies and communities.