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Premalatha’s story

“I have been denied my rights. But these rights are my birthright,” says Premalatha, a school child in a village near Madurai in the Tamil Nadu region of southern India. She encounters caste and gender-based discrimination. When she fetches water from a well, she and children from other “lower caste” or “Dalit” families are supposed to wait behind children from the “upper caste”. In school, Dalits are sometimes not allowed to eat with other children. In teashops, they may be served tea in coconut shells, while members of the upper caste drink from steel cups. At home, Premalatha, not her brothers, is expected to do all the chores. Until the introduction of human rights education in her school, teachers sometimes hit students with sticks.

From her human rights teacher, she learns about the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, the rights of the child, and the principles of non-discrimination and equality. Premalatha and her classmates know they can use the human rights framework to work with their teachers, families and community to change attitudes and help resolve and prevent human rights violations.

What do Premalatha and her friends do? View this segment of A Path to Dignity: The Power of Human Rights Education or watch the entire film at www.path-to-dignity.org to learn more. HREA produced this documentary film in collaboration with Soka Gakkai International and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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