A social committee with a social conscience

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What happens when a museum for human rights forms a social committee? You get a social committee with a social conscience.

Human Resources Advisor Joralyn Zaballero explains:

“Obviously we have more than our fair share of professors, lawyers, archeologists and researchers working for the Museum who are human rights experts. But we also have many support staff who, like me, are not human rights experts, although we are knowledgeable in our own fields. We want to have a better understanding of human rights so that we can take part in the conversation.”

Joralyn was one committee’s founding members. It was formed back in the summer of 2009 when the Museum only had a handful of employees. She says that the employee-led initiative was born out of desire for all employees to gain a better understanding of the concept of an idea museum dedicated to human rights. 

“In the early days, the committee was more of a book club. For our very first meeting, we packed up our lunches and went over to Stephen Juba Park to talk about a book we had read. If I remember correctly, the book was titled Night by Elie Weisel. It was about the author’s experience with his father in the Nazi concentration camps.”

Today, the committee has about a dozen representatives from different departments within the Museum. Of course, the social committee has elements that are typical of any social committee: celebrating birthdays, acknowledging cultural occasions and planning team building events. But they have also planned Lunch and Learn events that are centered on human rights, where they invite guest speakers. Most recently, to celebrate International Women's Day in March, University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby gave a lecture on Sex Equality Indicators to employees during their lunch break. She spoke about the gains women have enjoyed in the area of women’s rights as well as areas needing improvement.

Prof Karen Busby
University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby speaks to a group of CMHR employees, while on their lunch break, about Sex Equality Indicators. (photo credit: Jessica Sigurdson/CMHR)


The Museum’s employees also regularly get together at lunch time to watch short movies and documentaries related to human rights. Some examples of films they’ve watched have been Cameroon, Coming out of the Nkuta, a documentary about the hazards of declaring your homosexuality in Cameroon, and some episodes of the CBC/Radio-Canada’s Aboriginal Series The 8th Fire.

As the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) moves towards inauguration in 2014, its vision of encouraging meaningful human rights encounters starts right here, within its four walls. The Museum is seeking inclusivity for all its employees, whether they work in Human Resources, Finance, or Research and Curation.

As the old saying goes, “Charity begins at home.” In the Museum’s case, “human rights begin at home.”

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