Human Rights, Human Wrongs

Dr Sarah Bradshaw

Dr Sarah Bradshaw, Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Management in the School of Law, has alongside Professor Joshua Castellino launched a new online course. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) explores questions on human rights, gender and social exclusion.

In this interview, Dr Bradshaw tells us more about this topical course and explains why it has the potential to find collective solutions for a more sustainable and just world.

How and why did you become so passionate about teaching human rights?

What has guided what I do is not a ‘discipline’ but a desire to learn more about a topic that stems from those around me.

It was a lecturer during my undergraduate studies (BA Economics) that inspired me to focus on Latin America and a lecturer from my postgraduate studies (MA Latin American Studies) that led me to my one constant academic focus over time – gender.

Many women’s basic rights across the globe remain unfulfilled and many gendered rights, such as sexual rights, are not even recognised. For me, this is more than just an ‘academic’ subject, it is a lived reality for so many and is due to the current global system.

Tell us more about the MOOC.

The MOOC gives the incredible opportunity to reach so many people across the globe and start a conversation. I don’t have the answers, but I do have lots of questions and the MOOC gives me an opportunity to raise those questions.

For me, this is more than just an ‘academic’ subject, it is a lived reality for so many and is due to the current global system.

We had our first ‘Google Hangout’ for the MOOC last week where we responded to questions from students across many nations. We hope the MOOC can help in the global conversation around finding collective solutions to create a more sustainable and just development process for all.

It is our hope that through teaching, research and advocacy work we might be able to move forward in finding some collective agreement on the need to promote the rights of all people, while protecting the resources of the planet, and on how best to do this.

The more people that join in the conversation, the better hope we have of finding those collective solutions.

Image from Human Rights, Human Wrongs online course

How does the MOOC relate to and complement your own teaching at Middlesex University?

For me, as for many members of staff, my teaching is linked to my research and to my ‘practice’ – practice being policy advocacy work.

The three are intertwined in the MOOC – my research led to my involvement with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and through that being the lead author on the Background Report on Gender for the High Level Panel responsible for the first draft of the new Sustainable Development Goals. In turn it was the SDSN – under the auspices of their SDG Academy – that suggested the MOOC.

My sections are based to a large extent on classes I have taught at Middlesex over the years – one hour lectures here condensed into 8 minute blocks! So the MOOC has a direct relation to my face-to-face teaching and to my research but is also practice-based as it aims to educate for change.

Why do you think it’s so important to study human rights and sustainable development?

Two of the biggest challenges facing the world are:

  1. how to ensure all peoples across the globe achieve their rights to access not just basic goods and services, but the goods, services and freedoms that make life happy and fulfilling,
  2. and how to balance this with the need for the planet’s resources to be respected and not exploited merely for profit and consumption without thought of the future.

It is a huge challenge and if we are to get it right, and we must get it right if we are to survive, it makes the study of human rights and sustainable development a must for everyone!

Human Rights, Human wrongs: Challenging Poverty, Vulnerability and Social Exclusion is an 11-week online course open to everyone.

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