On Monday, December 10, recognized internationally as Human Rights Day, Cheri Honkala, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and allies around the United States announced plans to organize a people’s tribunal of the poor, the World Court of Women Against Poverty in Philadelphia. Honkala, the group’s national organizer and the 2012 Green Party nominee for vice-president, also announced plans to turn Philadelphia into a human rights city. Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognizes the continuing need to work for the advancement of both economic and political human rights for all people, including the right to free speech and assembly, a job, housing, and food, among others.
Four people active in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, including Honkala, spoke on the environment, hunger, land, health, housing, and education, and how to address these issues of basic human rights. As a human rights city, Philadelphia will hold its political leaders responsible for the welfare of its people. At the same time, P.P.E.H.R.C. is not waiting for those leaders to act. Doctors will be sought to provide care for free, work will continue on farming occupied vacant lots to provide free food, and housing takeovers will continue.
While that sort of long-term organizing on human rights in Philadelphia continues, P.P.E.H.R.C. will work with various
organizations, including New Voices Pittsburgh, to organize the World Court of Women Against Poverty, Eastern Region from October 18-20 in Philadelphia. This tribunal will give space and voice to those most affected by poverty in all its forms but who are traditionally excluded from public and policy debates. Drawing from the lived experiences of women in poverty in Pittsburgh, the Court will advance analyses and policies to address poverty and other Human Rights
violations and organize for political action to affirm the local, national and international Human Rights of women. The Court also advances this year’s United Nations International Human Rights Day theme, “My Voice Counts.” This emphasizes the rights of all people “to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision making.”