Born Equal: Part 1 – Rights & Responsibilities

No matter who we are, how we look, what we do, what we believe in – we all have rights. Equal rights. We are all born equal, but somewhere along the line – we forget to live in equality. So, where do we begin? What do we tell our children? Why do we expect only adults to know about human rights? Isn’t it our duty to sensitize our future generation also?

These letters are an attempt by a mother to convey her thoughts around this. Do read and let us know how would you go about teaching kids that they are ‘Born Equal’?

This post is being written in association with Amnesty International India’s Human Rights Education programme.

Dear boys and girls,

This letter is for each of you out there because I feel like talking about something today. Something very basic, yet important.

Some phrases that you hear all the time are “That’s not right.” “That’s wrong!” “That’s right.” “Do you think that’s right?” Oh! And so much more. Isn’t it?

Ok, so I am not very certain what your rights and wrongs are; however, I have a pretty clear picture about mine. Does that mean anything? Yes, in simple words – we all have our rights and wrongs. Your right could be my wrong, and in between all the debates around various issues on this planet, there’s a world of rights that is not very often explained.

So, let me talk about it here.

There are these little twins inside each of us that we seldom think of, but they’re always within us. Let’s call these the R&R twins. No, it’s not rest and relaxation, nor is it rewards and recognition!

One of the twins, we’ll name her Rights – she’s the most active of the two. Along with your rights and wrongs, she’s the twin you stand up and raise your voice for. The moment someone questions her, there’s this little spark inside you, which urges you to say “Oh! That’s my Right, and I will do it.” She’s the lucky twin, I must say. No one takes a finger pointed at her lying down.

The other twin, she’s called Responsibility. Oh! That’s the name many dread. Children somehow do not like her as much (nor do adults) and so, we tend to not talk about her. It’s sad that we do not really realise that they are incomplete without each other. I think the relationship is very simple here; if you have a Right, then you have a Responsibility too. One twin might be able to exist without the other; however – they feel complete only when they are in sync with each other. They say twins have a psychic connection, that they feel each other’s feelings and that they share a special connection. So, do the R&R twins. We could ignore the existence of one twin, in our case Responsibility, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.

I’ve been trying to understand how connected the twins are, apart from their names.

Right is what you deserve for just being here. Human rights are universal and you being here means, you have rights. Rights are inalienable, which means you cannot really take it from someone or give it away. Also, most of our rights are interdependent and interrelated. Let me try and explain this to you. Your right to freedom of expression, right to social and cultural freedom and all connected, isn’t it? When you have the right to express your feelings, these feelings could be on religion, politics or just about anything. When one right is curbed, it affects a few other rights; and when one right is acknowledged and improved, a few others also get affected positively.

This twin, Right, is always there for each of us with or without us attempting to keep her with us. For instance, you have the right to be safe, educated, respected, and to be different. You also have the right to have shelter, clothing and personal space. No one can take these away from you and most often, you don’t allow them to either.

So, who is the other twin Responsibility? She is our duty – to either do something about or to think about. Every time you think you have the right to do something, you also have a responsibility towards it. Let me try and explain this to you – if you think you have the right to be respected, do not forget that everyone else also has the right to be respected and it is your responsibility to do so. When you say you have the right to walk freely, remember you have the responsibility to try and avoid bumping into another person while you do so. S/he also has the right to walk freely.

You have the right to have access to water, but to acknowledge the other twin, you also have the responsibility to not waste water.

You have the right to be yourself. Proudly. But do not forget that, you can only be yourself up until you interfere in someone else’s life. There are lines; very blurred ones though. Nonetheless, they are there. Remember, we are all born equal, only to be scattered by our place of birth. We are all born into different families, in different parts of this world, but we are all equal.

There is no reason for you to ever feel that you have more rights than the person sitting next to you at any given point in time. Just like, nothing can take away even the slightest responsibility from you. You may behave like you are not responsible for something, but deep inside your sense of responsibility exists.

We are all citizens of this world and as someone said we seem to be developing in a strange way where everyone only talks about rights and never about responsibilities. Remember to remember, this does not seem right.

Take care. Stay responsible and stand up for rights. Yours and other’s.


Rashmi Balakrishnan says: I am a four year old mother. Been around for 3-plus decades. Learning new lessons and unlearning a few old ones. I try and find happiness in small things. I dream. I laugh. I cry. I hear. And I try and do. Life is all about love, laughter and light for me.