Freshman year in all my classes there was The Marine. Old for a freshman and a fellow International Affairs major, he was always on time and often wore his mil backpack. Manifesting himself as the booming faceless voice from the back of the class, the professors always seemed overly eager to both hear and honor him.
One of his biggest stands which professors bent over backwards to not disagree with was that electricity is a human right. His experience in the Middle East had made this overwhelmingly obvious to him, but he had a hard time pointing to the piece of international human rights legislation that backed him up. Personally, I think he was getting more at the need for light and perhaps the ability to cook in a safe and effective way, neither of which has to necessarily involve electricity. (I would now argue that electricity is necessary in order to honor several clearly-defined rights, such as to food security and bodily security i.e. protection from rape and other forms of bodily harm that befall women who collect wood at night.)
Now that I’m spending so much time with micro-credit, I’m starting to understand how their services can be human rights, especially when we’re discussing a certified bank like Grameen. People without access to insurance, credit and savings a become vulnerable to all manner of incredibly harmful and undignified situations.
These can include, but are not limited to:
- prostitution/human trafficking
- food insecurity
- losing access to their children
Someone without the ability to borrow money, something we do all the time in the US, would have an extremely difficult time raising their station. Someone who does not have secure savings cannot plan for the future, is subject to robbery for the cash they most likely store in their home. Sometimes, human rights is not just about the theory but about pragmatic on the ground approaches like selling water instead of giving it away in order to make it sustainable and accessibly. In this instance, I think our modern world and insistence on capitalism makes access to credit and savings (in one fashion or another) necessary in order to live a dignified, secure life.