‘Barefoot and pregnant’ is an image that has been associated with disempowered women, dependent and entangled in a cycle of poverty, frustration and self-negation from limited life chances resulting from unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies. Similarly, aspects of the feminist movement have also frowned on lengthening and thinning heels on women’s shoes as similar representations of internalised repressions. In fact, shoes and rising heels have been associated with improved standards of living,and lifestyles that allow persons to afford shoes to potect themselves from dreaded poverty-associated diseases, and the roughness of the ground.
Now leading women in the civil society movement have adopted the metaphor – at least half of it, ‘barefoot’ – and extended it, to remind the world of the violations of human rights around the world. Go barefoot – lose your shoes is the rallying call to the world to remind ourselves of these violations. Led by CIVICUS - a world alliance of civil society interests, based in South Africa and headed by Ingrid Srinath – men and boys, women and girls shed their shoes and trekked barefooted through most of the CIVICUS World Assembly activities in Montreal recently, to signal their commitment to defending the rights of persons around the world.
On Human Rights Day, December, 10 – mark the date - the CIVICUS led campaign - Every Human Has Rights – will rally people to focus, even for a few moments, to think about other people whose rights have been violated in the hope of building understanding and to begin to make the fight for human rights part of everyone’s lives. This year’s rally around the sloan Go Barefoot – Lose Your Shoes, will zero in on people living in poverty – people who don’t have food to put on their table, let alone shoes to put on their feet.
In particular, we may want to think of the women and children in the some 20 percent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago whose existence hover around the ‘poverty line’.
I have found that more horrifying than what is conjured by the metaphor of ‘barefoot and pregnant’, is the statistic – of 20 percent of our population being barely able to afford life’s basics , given that T&T’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head is said to be some USD 20,000. In lay terms, that means, that if this country’s wealth was more equitably distributed, every individual will be earning some TTD 120,000 a year.
Human Rights day was introduced to keep focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the anniversary of this Declaration with its 30 Articles of the rights of men and women. In printed form, the 9 cm by 12 cm booklet of 15 pages defines human rights as right to life, liberty, security, property, education, equality before law, freedom of thought, religion, opinion, peaceful assembly, political participation, equal pay for equal work, right to join trade unions, right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being.
Other less known, are ‘right to nationality’, family, equal access to the public service, free development of personality and right to protection of moral and material interests from any scientific, literary or artistic production.
Trinbagonians, with the endemic liming culture would be pleased to know it also includes the right to participate in cultural life, enjoy the arts, share in scientific achievement as well as – note this –“rights to the freedom to rest and leisure and periodic holidays with pay.”
It is clear that many of these rights still point to the unequal status of women in many parts of the world where women still do not enjoy right to property, freedom of thought, equal pay for equal work, and right to enjoy adequate standard of living for health and well being and access to social and public services and utilities, and many have no prospect of experiencing “rights to the freedom to rest and leisure and periodic holidays with pay.”
Go Barefoot, lose your shoes, is based on the belief that the world would be a better place if every person walked a mile in another person’s. Wouldn’t it? Try it and at noon on December 10, take off your shoes, step out onto the street and walk around the to reognise that Every Human Have Rights. Some details in the box on what you can do.
Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant, and author of Through the Political Glass Ceiling – Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad and Tobago’s First Female. Email kriscivica@ yahoo.com
What you can do:
1. Raising profile of rights
Lose your shoes and walk around your office, church, school etc, barefooted. Take pictures and videos to upload onto the Lose Your Shoes website.
2. Raise awareness
Stories and case studies online and used in digital promotions will help demonstrate that violations of human rights are one of the biggest obstacles to eradicating poverty and people action to uphold Universal rights.
3. 12 steps for human rights
Take the pledge to take the12 STEPS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS by starting with actions on the day and then throughout the year – one each month, simple actions from signing a petition, to attending an event or watching a video and sharing with friends.
For more actions, see http://loseyourshoes.org/