By Ashley Binetti
Ashley is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Ashley below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

I became wrapped up in human rights (HR) issues in college; I filled my schedule with classes on global poverty, cultural rights, international law, etc.  It is incredibly daunting to learn about the world’s human rights abuses—each problem is linked to the next, and a viable solution appears to be light-years away.  However, we don’t have to solve every problem to have an impact.  As students, we have the ability to garner support for these issues.  Advocacy is our most powerful tool—by writing op-eds, blogs and letters to congress, or by inspiring a new group of passionate citizens.

A few years ago, I interned for Amnesty International, USA (AIUSA) and had the pleasure of meeting 25 college students who volunteered for the Human Rights Education Service Corps Program.  These students taught an introductory HR course in low-performing D.C. public high schools.  I taught my own course as well, and was consistently amazed by my students.  After discussing questions such as, “What do you need to survive, day to day?” and “What do you need to live a happy life?,” we penned a list that paralleled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948).  Learning occurred through this type of exchange, where the concept of rights was instinctive, and students could understand the universal and interdependent nature of rights.   

As Columbia University Professor Betty Reardon notes, “Intentional cultural change can result only from education.”  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom using the AIUSA curriculum; it could be creating a teach-in of your own, holding a town-meeting on campus, or participating in a national HR conference.  If we seek to live in a world where human rights are respected, the best place to start is by educating ourselves and our peers—encouraging action and compassion.

Ashley Binetti recently graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University with a BA in Government and International Relations.  She has advocated for human rights through internships with The United Nations Foundation and Amnesty International USA, and by participating in Care USA’s National Conferences.  Ashley is particularly interested in social, economic, and cultural rights, as well as the expansion of human rights education in the United States and abroad.  In her free time, Ashley enjoys yoga and salsa dancing.