Education is the key to jobs -- to income -- to human dignity itself.
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy spoke these words at the University of Alabama in March 1966, and they still bear a fundamental truth: that human dignity rests on having the opportunity to reach our full potential, and this opportunity, in turn, rests on our access to quality education.
But 45 years later, over half a billion women across the globe have never been given the opportunity to learn to read and write, and millions of girls more are denied even the most basic schooling. This unconscionable situation underpins the key theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: women must be provided equal access to education and training, particularly in the fields of science and technology, in order to create a pathway for a career and a dignified living.
The right to education is enshrined in many of our international covenants: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Convention against Discrimination in Education; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The right to education includes available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable education; but innumerable barriers to education and vocational training for women and girls around the world remain.
The RFK Center is working to eliminate such barriers through its Right to Education program, a joint project with RFK Human Rights Award Laureates in the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Guatemala. In these countries, structural discrimination effectively has deprived many Afro-descendants, indigenous minorities and ethnic minorities -- especially children of migrant workers and internally displaced people -- of even the most rudimentary education. Together, we exert pressure on the governments of these countries and others in the region to comply with their legal obligations to provide equal access to education.
In addition, through the RFK Center’s human rights education initiative, "Speak Truth To Power", students worldwide are being taught that when faced with injustice and inequality they must abandon the role of bystander, and, instead, join today’s heroes as human rights defenders.
As Robert Kennedy urged in his speech at the University of Alabama, we must “ensure that every child learns, to the full limit, his capabilities.”
Today, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights joins with our courageous Laureates and defenders, and with the rest of world, in honoring the contributions and achievements of women and in urging for more progress in providing women everywhere with equal access to education and opportunities.
Magodonga Mahlangu, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (2009 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Stephen Bradberry, Alliance Institute (2005 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Berenice Celeyta, La Asociación NOMADESC (1998 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Delphine Djiraibe, Public Interest Law Center in Chad (2004 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Abel Barrera Hernandez, Tlachinollan Center (2010 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Doan Viet Hoat, International Institute for Vietnam (1995 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Martin Macwan, Dalit Shakti Kendra (2000 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Dr. Mohammed, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (2007 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Sonia Pierre, MUDHA (Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent) (2006 RFK Human Rights Laureate)
Loune Viaud, Zanmi Lasante (2002 RFK Human Rights Laureate)