Tag Archives: yunus

What is a Human Right?

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:

  • begging
  • 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.

Choosing a New Place

When I first heard about the Benin trip, and how it had a one-week France component, I was a little bummed.  I had already been to france, I already had that stamp.  But I think a lot changed when I was in Cuba. As the trip got closer, I thought of paris as a comfort, as a home in so many ways.  As a breath of fresh air, the way a weekend at my parents’ house can be. 

Now, when I think of bangladesh, I don’t think oh! Now I can say I’ve been to asia.  I don’t think about all the great proximate countries and how to cram them in as cheap as possible.  I think about how hard it will be to experience my first truly blind foreign language experience.  I think about how ill probably be alone, and what will I do for housing.  I think about how they treat women, and wonder whether harassment is prevalent. 

When I think about the Dominican Republic, I think of the comforts of Spanish and familiar food.  I think of the proximity to Cuba and Haiti.  I think about how going there three times in a six month period will be such an asset.  Of course, I also hope there will be enough food, and that I wont get sick of spending so much time there.

I think a lot, too, about the choices I don’t make.  Latin america isn’t supposed to be my focus area.  Shouldn’t I be in Africa or the Middle East?  Shouldn’t, as a friend suggested, I be running back to Cairo?

This is where it gets dicey and where I get all Bell Jar.  Each place I choose is a million I don’t.   And of course, money is always a factor, and my career, and the strength of what I intend to do in this new place. 

How do you pick where you live, go on vacation or work?  For me, a co-op abroad will be all of those things, in its own way.