“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world...” – Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
How often do you think about your basic human rights? How do you know when/if your human rights are being violated? Even in the midst of current injustice, we all have a baseline understanding on what should be happening. It’s crazy to think about the fact that until 1948, these things had never been written down in any formal capacity.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 today. Every year on December 10th the world observes Human Rights Day—the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today is both a celebration and a reminder of the work still to be done.
We often take for granted the assumptions of this milestone document—that all people are created equal, and are entitled to certain unalienable rights as members of the human family. Rights to freedom, safety from slavery and torture, fair treatment, equality before the law, education, freedom of expression and opinion, and equal pay (to name a few), without discrimination.
But this document was a landmark diplomatic declaration in the immediate aftermath of World War II, written in response to the gross dehumanization and atrocities of that war to ensure that it would never happen again. It was drafted by the Commission on Human Rights, comprised of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds, led by former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Most people probably don’t know this, but two of the 30 Articles in this declaration speak specifically to wages.
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Economic freedom and equality are paramount to the full realization of our basic human rights. They increase our ability to pursue dreams and realize goals, to exercise agency in our own lives. They liberate us from being beholden to entities of power to meet our most basic needs. So often, people are held hostage by their economic situation, and the authors of this declaration understood that our rights to fair and equal pay (Article 23) and living wages (Article 25) are basic human rights.
On our mission to end generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women, we play our part by ensuring that the basic human rights of every person our business comes into contact with are protected and realized to their full potential. That is the North Star guiding our path. As a business, we understand that transparency about our wages was crucial to to this process. That’s why we decided to publish our lowest wages. Because you deserve to know how the most vulnerable workers are being treated, and we want to be held accountable not just to our bottom line but to the people our business impacts.
As an industry, we have a lot of work to do. An estimated 98% of fashion workers are not paid living wages. But we also know that there is a path forward. We want other brands to join us in publishing their lowest wages because we know that addressing the social impact of the fashion industry will happen when the private sector takes a lead.
We are not perfect, and like every country in the world beholden to this document, we are constantly working to make the ideals of this declaration a reality for every person.
This is our journey. Thank you for being on it with us.