The book Human Dignity takes you around the world, presenting the stories of eleven human rights defenders who act in the spirit of Gandhi’s motto: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Rebiya Kadeer, East Turkestan
Defending Uyghurs against Chinese oppression
‘You can see people’s dreams and wishes just by looking into their eyes,’ Rebiya Kadeer knows. The ‘mother of the Uyghurs’ is determined that the Chinese Government should be brought before an international tribunal for its human rights abuses in East Turkestan.
Starting off poor, uneducated, and divorced, her initial prospects were bleak. Remarkably, she became a businesswoman, social activist, and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The Chinese Government, however, imprisoned her for highlighting the plight of the Uyghurs. In exile in the United States she became the leader of the World Uyghur Congress.
For a long time she was looking for a Uyghur leader, but her patience ran out.
‘I then decided that I had to find that person within myself.‘
Martin Macwan, India
Advocating the rights of the Untouchables
‘There is a different world that exists in this so-called democratic India,’ Martin Macwan says. ‘The enemy is something inside, not outside, and it runs from the poorest villages right up to the higher echelons of politics.’
Having grown up in a hand-to-mouth existence, and having to clean the school in order to be allowed to attend it, Martin would later work as a librarian and literacy teacher. But when advocating the rights of the Untouchables, he lost some of his best friends during the Golana Massacre. Ever since, he has worked tirelessly for Navsarjan Trust, now active in more than 3,000 villages, demonstrating the power of civil disobedience and empowerment.
‘Ultimately, every human being has a sense of spirituality that is more to do with values, ethics, understanding and vision.’
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Nunavut
Safeguarding the future of the Arctic and its people
‘The Arctic is the barometer of global environmental health, and we Inuit are the mercury in that barometer,’ says Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. She champions issues ranging from education to climate change.
Raised by her mother and grandmother, Sheila started her life traveling by dog team or kayak, worked as an interpreter in a hospital and for the Kativik School Board. Her experience caused her to seek ways to bring about change for the Inuit and the Arctic region. One success was the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants that cause health problems in the north, caused by industries in the south.
‘In my view, if you protect the Arctic, you will save the planet,’ she says. ‘We’re all connected in so many ways.’