Meet the Women Who Shaped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt is well known for her leading role in the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but other women also helped make the Universal Declaration truly Universal.
Hansa Mehta, from India, is credited with changing the phrase, “All men are born free and equal” in Article 1 to “All human beings are born free and equal.” It was a one-word change that meant all the difference.
Begum Shaista Ikramullah, of Pakistan, championed Article 16 on equal rights in marriage to combat child and forced marriages. Minerva Bernardino, of the Dominican Republic, successfully argued for inclusion of the equality of men and women in the preamble of the UDHR. Bodil Begtrup, of Denmark, advocated for the UDHR to refer to “all” or “everyone” as the holders of the rights, rather than “all men.”
Evdokia Uralova, of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, argued for equal pay for women, and thanks to her, Article 23 states, “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.” Together with Fryderyka Kalinowski, of Poland, and Elizaveta Popova, of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, she stressed the rights of persons in non-self-governing territories as covered in Article 2.
Lakshmi Menon, of India, argued for the “universality” of human rights, insisting that if women and people under colonial rule were not explicitly mentioned in the UDHR then they would not be considered included in “everyone.”
“Eleanor Roosevelt is well known for her leading role in the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but other women also helped make the Universal Declaration truly Universal.”
Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, of France, advocated for including nondiscrimination based on sex in Article 2, which reads, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
These and other women contributing to the UDHR has ensured the document guarantees equality for all.