Empowerment Through Human Rights

by Judith Smith

I discovered a wealth of information related to Freedom of Expression during my research for Week 2; it became difficult to focus on one thing. I decided to describe freedom of expression in basic terms and to differentiate between freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Please read the following basics about the topic end enjoy the video at the end. You will find a second puzzle piece related to the topic attached as well.

Week 2 – Freedom of Expression. What is the right to freedom of expression? Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It also underpins most other rights and allows them to flourish. The right to speak your mind freely on important issues in society, to access information and hold the powers that be to account, plays a vital role in the healthy development process of any society.

Freedom of expression is not to be confused with freedom of speech. According to the ACLU, Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition — this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.” Freedom of expression includes the right to express one’s ideas and opinion freely through speech, writing, and other forms of communication but without deliberately causing harm to others’ character and/or reputation by false or misleading statements. Freedom of press is part of freedom of expression.

Or, to put it another way, freedom of expression is an expression which may or may not be supported by logic or rationality, and it may just be an expression of emotions, which can be curtailed and punished and possibly be banned as well. Freedom of speech is about the freedom of speaking about anything which is in the form of speech, whether oral or written, but backed by good logic, rationality and reasonability, and the speaker must think that it is defendable.
Empowerment through the freedom of expression is a multi-dimensional social and political process that helps people gain control over their own lives….it further highlights the importance to access to information as an inherent part of the freedom of expression and empowerment of the people.

Quotes for the day:

“Two things form the bedrock of any open society — freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a free country.”

“…Society needs to open its collective mind to all ideas and ideologies. It needs to give its people the chance to listen to the opinions of others, and then examine them critically instead of rejecting them prematurely. Such a creative dialogue based on positive critical thinking can enhance and develop ideas.”

Following is a brief video on the concept of freedom of expression. Enjoy!


Empowerment has become the buzzword in recent news headlines. Stories of empowerment have come to light in all areas of the media. The pervasive thought in all this communication of information is that we all have rights to feel empowered, and that feeling of empowerment can make a difference when we it is used to make someone stronger and more confident, especially when it comes to controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. I have chosen empowerment through human rights as my theme for August because I feel it is one of the most valuable tools a human being can possess, but it is often underused or used incorrectly which could cause a negative impact or effect.There are so many ways to feel empowered, and I would like to concentrate in the month of August on four basic human rights and/or freedoms that we are blessed to possess as members of the human race. By exploring one concept per week and using it to create a puzzle piece (see attachment) that will define a specific human right or freedom, it is my hope that at the end of the month we will all be one step closer to realizing our own sense of empowerment. This realization will enable us to create a better environment for ourselves and the people around us.

Week 1 – Freedom of Thought
We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want. This is one of the most powerful freedoms that we share. No one can take our thoughts away from us, short of altering our thoughts through the use of mind-altering drugs or shock therapy. As members of the human race we have a right to think what we want, when we want, without fear. It is important to keep in mind two essential goals of critical thinking when talking about freedom of thought. The goals are

  1. To improve the quality of our thinking.
  2. To learn to think for ourselves.

These two goals express fundamental critical thinking values. If we lack in either of these, we suffer for it. We need to keep in mind that it is harmful when the quality of our thinking is compromised due to our own irrationality or the persuasive efforts of sources that don’t have our personal self-interest at heart.

Some of these may be minor harms in the grand scheme of things (giving into the persuasion of a peer or superior when it comes to minor purchases). Other harms are more serious (staying in a job you hate, not putting any money away for retirement, compromising one’s values).

But what harms do we risk when we lack in the ability to think for ourselves? Why does it matter that we learn to think for ourselves? And what exactly does it mean to “think for oneself”?

The expression “to think for oneself” doesn’t have a single well-defined meaning. What it does is bring up a set of concepts — freedom, independence, and authenticity. To think for oneself means that whatever opinions you hold will be well thought out and come from a position of thorough investigation and thoughtful analysis. … It is not unlike critical thinking – it just encompasses a broader scope of choices and decision-making in your life.