Human rights are defined as the rights that are believed to belong justifiably to every person. The human rights that we are most passionate about are open access to healthful food, free movement of the body, and above all – the ability to protect oneself. Fulfillment of these rights means that a person now has the space to choose their life’s trajectory. These concepts should not be limited only to people who can pay high prices and live in developed areas. The education for how to maintain a healthy body is valuable to EVERY body, even people who are born into underprivileged circumstances. What would you do if you had no Internet or differing schools of thought to learn how to feed your newborn baby? What if it was culturally accepted to use rape as a “treatment” for HIV infection? As a “treatment” for homosexuality? The women in the communities we are working with do not grow up with the same cultural privileges that we have in Westernized countries. However, their underlying human rights still exist no matter their circumstance.

When we arrive in the communities, our first job is to listen. We know what we have to offer, but our voices will fall on deaf ears if we don’t hear what they are open to learning. We are not “white saviors”. We have many questions to ask in order to shed light on the differences of our experiences. We will learn pieces of their culture and what barriers (institutional, social, and/or personal) that lie in the way. We will have ongoing discussions on what standing up for yourself can really mean in your domestic relationships and with strangers on the street. These conversations will be ongoing and recorded confidentially in order to track common themes, needs, and progress. By having these invaluable conversations upfront, this will open the door to a culturally sensitive curriculum. We will work together with the community to figure out which elements of our teaching are most appropriate and applicable to daily life: what is most empowering, what builds voice and self worth, and what will bring the community together.

Human rights are fundamental to all people, no matter their background. In the end, these community members are women just like the friends we have in our own community at home. We are fortunate to have thoroughly trained for real world self defense and health education so we can share it with others who have not had the same opportunities. Everyone should have the right to choose best choices for themselves. If not us, then who?