Melinda Richardson is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow and the Chair of the UNA Southern New York Young Professionals. View her blog on the Southern New York Chapter page here.
For the past year the United Nations Human Rights Office has been promoting its Free & Equal Campaign, a social media based movement to combat prejudice, violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people around the world. In 2011 for the first time, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution condemning violence and discrimination against LGBT people. This has been a big step in setting precedent for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights as for the first time sexual orientation and identification as been expounded as a basic human right regardless of country or creed.
Just last week the United Nations adopted a resolution that requires an investigation and subsequent report to the world body about the status of human rights for LGBT people globally. "The passage of the resolution is a significant step forward in the realization of universal dignity and human rights for LGBT persons," Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel at Human Rights First stated.
UN Free & Equal Campaign
A year ago, the United Nations Human Rights Office launched an unprecedented global public education campaign for lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender rights: Free & Equal. At the Social Good Summit last week the Free& Equal campaign showed a video highlighting their achievements during the past year. This inspiring video tells the story of what happened next. The campaign has now reached over a billion people having read, seen or heard its campaign – no small feat.
In April 2014 millions watched “The Welcome”, the UN's first ever Bollywood music video. This music video for gay rights featured Equality Champion Celina Jaitly to promote a Free and Equal world. This quickly became the most widely watched UN Human Rights video ever produced, watched by over 2 million people and counting.
Last week at the Social Good Summit in New York City Geena Rocero spoke about her own challenges as a transgendered person. Even as an internationally recognized supermodel she has faced her own share of persecution – both within her industry and daily life. She shared her story of not being able to change the gender on her passport to allow her to be her true identity, leading to being detained and humiliated while traveling. She stated: “We're talking about human dignity and that should be without borders”. After a moving TED Talk she founded Gender Proud, “an advocacy and awareness organization that brings attention to the need for all transgender individuals to self-identify with the fewest possible barriers”. Ms. Rocero has been using social media and her video presence online to launch discussions around the world.
Another transgender model has shared her story and is using social media to raise awareness and funding for a documentary film. Andreja Peijic has been renowned as an androgynous model and has traveled the world and walked the catwalk for the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. She recently underwent gender reassignment surgery and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to document her transition and story. The documentary film depicts her physical, emotional and professional journey after undergoing sex reassignment surgery. She says that she “wanted to show the whole experience... help young kids out there who are going through similar struggles”.
Connecting for Good, Connecting for All
What the Free & Equal Campaign and these stories indicate is the impact social media can have in an ever interconnected world. The more individuals that support and share stories about the LGBT community and in particular the travails of the transgendered community, the more people shared humanity and the less those who wish to persecute and deny human rights are able to do so. This truly is the essence of what respect and acceptance are all about
This fall the United Nations Association Young Professionals of the Southern New York State Division will host a screening of a Free & Equal campaign film featuring several panelists discussing LGBT rights around the world. Stay tuned.