By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Dec 10, 2018 @ 10:15 am
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Human Rights Day occurs on Dec. 10 each year, but 2018 marks a special occasion — the Declaration of the event turns 70.

In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a “milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” according to the United Nations (UN) website.

Today, the Declaration is available in more than 500 languages, making it the most translated document in the world.

But you might be wondering: What is Human Rights Day and how do I mark the occasion? Here’s a peek at the history behind the day, as well what’s planned to help recognize it on its milestone anniversary.

Ladies made it happen. 

It might come as no surprise to you that Eleanor Roosevelt — who was known for taking a stand against racial discrimination — was the chairperson of the drafting committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But there were several other women who also worked to put the document in motion.

Amongst them was Hansa Mehta of India, who was the only other female delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights between 1947 and 1948, according to the UN website. Mehta is credited with changing the saying that “all men are born free and equal” to “all human beings are born free and equal,” as noted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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There was also Evdokia Uralova of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic who argued for equal pay for women, a move that allowed for the inclusion of an article in the document that states, “everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.”

How can I read the Declaration?

You can find the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in full on the UN website. You can also search for it by translation.

There’s also an inspiring option to watch people from around the world reciting the Declaration of Human Rights in their respective language, and it includes an option for you to record yourself doing the same.

If you want to listen to an audio recording in your native language, then that’s available too, and you’ll also find an illustrated version of the document that makes the document easier to understand.

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How can I celebrate?

For starters, you’ll want to learn more about the “Shine Your Light”  events across the world that have been taking place for the month leading up to Human Rights Day, including an event in Bangkok last month where representatives from the UN, human rights defenders and university students hosted a film screening and panel discussion on migration and human rights.

Another event in Manchester last month highlighted the role that human rights and youth play in building and sustaining social inclusion and cohesion.

“No one’s hope can be secure if rooted in the hopelessness of another,” Kate Gilmore, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the event. “We must tell again a strong, engaging and empowering democratic story of our human connectedness — more powerful than the rising story of hatefulness.”

On social media, you can follow the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights to learn more about the day, as well as year-round efforts that are being made to spread awareness, including posts about gender equity, as well as video messages from Angelina Jolie, Alyssa Milano and several others to mark the occasion of the 70th anniversary.