beyond bearing witness

The People’s Movement for Human Rights Education divides the various human rights guidelines into categories. This organization lays out the general themes that human rights and media activists tend to focus on in their work. The documentary filmmaker is no longer a removed outsider who captures an aspect of life on film with not other involvement. Nowadays, media activists who look at human rights related topics bear witness in such a way that causes systemic change. These films are not solely for the dissemination of information but rather they constitute forms of education that empower the victims or subjects to create their own change. So what is the role of the human rights activist and the media educator in the framework of sports and youth development?

In class we talked about the 2 core ideas of human rights: Dignity and Integrity. While dignity refers to the sacredness and worth of life, integrity is the idea of the wholeness of life – of developing and nurturing the physical, intellectual, and aesthetic elements. In the PDHRE under “Development“, the following is included as a universal right: “The human right of the child to live in an environment appropriate for physical and mental development.”Through and with sports, children around the world can create their own change and protect their integrity. Sports teach a set of principles and values – perseverance, teamwork, respect, etc. – that will then translate to other aspects of their future lives – professionally, economically, and socially.

In all of this, we encounter the idea of “politics of representation”. How are we as media educators supposed to represent children suffering through difficulties we’ve never experienced? And through a sports lens above it all. As youth workers we are given the power and privilege of representing another person – of representing a child whose life is sacred and unique and whose rights have been violated. Despite the difficult living conditions, children tend to highlight the positive things in their life, on the things they are proud of and want to share with others. Scoring a goal, assisting in a crucial play, running a mile – these are all things that can give kids hope and build pride in themselves. So these physical/athletic achievements end up meaning so much more to a child who doesn’t have much to begin with. Throughout all this, the filmmaker’s responsibility goes beyond simply bearing witness and becomes an attempt at capturing the change that happens through aspects like sports in the lives of youth.