PWESCR - Programme on Women's Economic, Social & Cultural Rights



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Dignity and Human Rights: A Missing Dialogue? By Barbara Y. Phillips




The Human Rights Movement faces challenges of interpretation, application, and relevance to the realities of social justice activism as it is losing sight of and contact with human beings and their aspirations.  Women’s Movements have also been criticized for failures of theory and practice with respect to racial and ethnic minorities and other socially and economically marginalized groups. The concept of dignity can respond to these challenges by re-energizing these Movements – and others -, mending the fragmentation and bridging the widening divide between the Human Rights Movement and other Social Justice Movements and empowering Women’s Movements globally.

Women's realities in the context of women's economic vulnerabilities force us to think about principles of dignity. Dignity has not been considered and have not been brought into the discussions on human rights. It has stayed an aspiration. The concept of dignity is part and parcel of the core international human rights instruments. What is human dignity? How can we use the concept of dignity to better advance our struggles for human rights? Can we expand the principles of dignity to provide the much needed floor that would prevent human life from sinking below a certain standard? Dignity is used by most women in a inherently natural way. It is the language of the poor used globally. Can concept of dignity bring human rights closer to people and their realities?