Fighting for Our Rights

by Tilly Brogan

I am going to begin my final article by going against everything that my literature professors have ever taught me; with a dictionary definition. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Human Rights are ‘rights which [are] believed to belong to every person.’ I would like to draw special attention to the use of the word ‘believed’ which implies that sometimes these rights aren’t honoured, basic as their nature is.

Over the past seven months I have drawn attention to those human rights which are often violated: the right to liberty, the right to freedom of speech, and the right to be free from prejudice on the basis of gender, nationality, or sex. I have spoken critically yet openly about politics in Catalonia, directly yet modestly about gender equality in Spain, and honestly yet unashamedly about dealing first hand with physical harassment and abuse.

The response to my articles has been incredible, and I am proud that my words have become instruments for an advancing evolution: building blocks for a revolution. I am most surprised by the feedback I received on my piece regarding street harassment; an Instagram message from a complete stranger applauding me for speaking out having found my article through sharing online. Most astonishingly it was from a young man. He told me he believed situations like these would come to an end if more people spoke out. It made me think that if a random boy could believe in the power of words and exposure, others could too; I had far too many girls message me to say that something similar had also happened to them.

But we have to be careful that we’re spreading the right message. If I’ve learnt anything from my time as a columnist, it’s that there are always two sides to every story. After I published that article, my friend at work took me to one side and told me he was surprised at my experience. He said he had always thought men from Catalonia were somewhat shy and nervous . Like his Catalan fiancée, he assured me that it was the women who were normally more outspoken and fiery. Was I sure that the men who harassed me in the street were locals?

When discussing human rights you have to tell a balanced story. You can’t over-generalise. Over-generalisation creates prejudice – and quite frankly there’s already enough of that in the world. It’s been difficult to present my ideas objectively and not to place blame on too many. But human rights are all about universality, so it’s often hard to find the right scope.

I’m aware that the topics I have covered have been somewhat distressing and most definitely thought-provoking, and I’m worried that I’m starting to lose my soft side. Nothing seems to shock me anymore. That, I must say, is the downside of writing these articles; I have to expose myself to the negative, so that the positive can advance.

But above all this comes gratitude. I am so grateful to have been able to write for this publication during my time here in Barcelona. I have learnt so much about where I have been living, and how good we have it in the UK. Brexit really is the worst thing for our country, for us to disconnect ourselves from what’s happening not just around the world, but next door. I have learnt that knowledge is power, and by leaving the European Union, we are cutting off an excellent yet vital channel of information.

What we need right now is to come together, not to break apart. How can we fight for human rights which are said to belong to every person, if we are treating each other differently? Discrimination, narrow-mindedness and bias won’t get us very far in this world. If we want to fight for universal equality, we have to be equal with the universe first.