Human Rights Day on the Palouse

By Brittany Amerson, Evergreen reporter

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Human rights issues came to the Moscow Farmer’s Market this weekend as part of a local campaign to bring equality awareness to residents of the Palouse.

Saturday marked the 23rd annual Human Rights Day presented by the Latah County Human Rights Task Force.

“Human Rights Day started because there wasn’t a voice to respond to that kind of threat,” said Alan Rosc, Latah County Human Rights task force member.

The original rights threat addressed was the neo-Nazi activity in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in the 90s and the event has continued every year since.

Before the start of Human Rights Day, members of the task force went to Coeur d’Alene to march in protest of the neo-Nazi activity. After the march, the task force realized they needed to bring their efforts to Moscow, Rosc said.

“Since then we’ve tried to pick a subject that speaks to human rights and that brings everything together,” he said.

Task Force Secretary Chairman Lynn Ate said every year the group showcases a different subject involving human rights to the market, in the hopes of educating the public and bringing awareness to the ongoing issues.

“We choose a topic each year,” Ate said. “We try to change it up, to whatever seems to be an issue that the community is interested in.”

This year’s theme is ‘Women & Work,’ which focuses on issues including how domestic violence affects the workplace, LGBT women in the workforce, education, and pay equity.

The task force joined up with the Moscow Human Rights Commission, Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse and the U of I Women’s Center and LGBTQA office to put together this year’s display.

“Gender equity does mean a truly better tomorrow for everyone,” said Carmen Suarez, U of I chief diversity officer. “These prescribed roles do affect communal growth negatively.”

Photos and biographies of working mothers, women in politics and LGBT women in Latah County were featured in the display to show the inequality that women in all walks of life are facing.

Along with the biographies, the task force displayed statistics about women and the issues they face in the workplace.

According the U.S. Census Bureau and the Latah County Human Rights Task Force, in 2012 Idaho women worked 15.5 months to earn what Idaho men earned in 12 months.

While most of the information displayed included women across the nation, the issues focusing on local women are most important to Rosc.

“Some of this stuff is just striking,” Rosc said. “These are figures that need to be shared and screamed to our young people. A lot of us are university profs and teachers, and this is what we should be teaching.”

Though Human Rights Day is a one-day event, the task force puts on a variety throughout the year to raise money and awareness for other human right issues.

“We put on food drives throughout the year, but our MLK breakfast is our major annual fundraiser,” Ate said. “We put it on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Day.”

Last year’s breakfast brought in around 250 guests and featured speakers from throughout the country.

Though the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast is not until next year, the task force is advertising an upcoming event at U of I, which focuses on one of the groups concerns: sexual violence and abuse. The event is called ‘Take Back the Night.’

“Sexual assault and abuse is one of the most prominent forms of harassment,” Suarez said. “It’s 2013, and this is still an issue. It’s a good time to change the culture and climate of this.”

‘Take Back the Night’ is a march put on to help end sexual abuse, assault and domestic violence. The event will take place Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Agriculture Science Auditorium at U of I, and everyone is invited to attend.