Winners of the Essay Contest, along with other selected participants, are invited to present their papers during the Human Rights Essay Colloquium. The colloquium, which takes place each spring semester, is an opportunity for students to present human rights papers and engage in open and lively discussion with other students and faculty members.
View all past Essay Contest winners below. Click on the winner to see their paper abstract.
General Studies, Undergraduate
(Un)Dividing the Balkan City of Bridges: School Reform and Re-structuring in Post-Conflict Mostar as a Model of Positive Peace Building in Bosnia and Herzegovina
This paper investigates integrated schooling models and other school-based reforms as interlocutors in the process of collective memory re-formation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with the goal of combatting the current competing memories of both wartime and pre-war Bosnian society which result in a fragmented national narrative prevent stable peace in the country. Mostar, BiH is used as a relevant case study in this pursuit, due to the city’s distinctly segregationist school policies and high levels of both pre-war cultural pluralism and wartime destruction that provide a foundation upon which to reconstruct collective memories of heterogeneous harmony among the various ethno-national sub-populations. This paper aims to provide evidence that in the ongoing reconciliation and reconstruction process taking place in BiH, integrated schools can serve as peace building tools due to their functions as 1) culturally symbolic structures which implicate both past and future populations 2) shared spaces of interaction and collaboration for the ethno-nationally heterogeneous Bosnian population and 3) sites of collective narrative building, largely through curriculum. In other words, this paper will present schools as both publicly-accessed memory-embedded physical structures as well as sites of collective memory formation and dispersal, allowing them to correct the divisive modes of remembering—or, more accurately, un-remembering—that currently pervade the country. In order to frame the topics of peace building and education in BiH, the first section of this paper will provide some context regarding the physical destruction of Mostar, reconstruction efforts in the city, and the segregationist school model which developed as one branch of the reconstruction process. The following two sections will address processes of memory re-formation through structurally-embedded narratives (with schools as the primary structure of interest) and memory reformation through the narrative of the actors within schools, largely through curriculum development and broadening language of instruction practices. The final two sections will address the potential of using education reform in Mostar as a model for national-scale positive peace, and anticipated barriers to this undertaking.
Barnard College, Undergraduate
Rural Mental Healthcare in Nigeria: An Analysis of the Challenges and Some Achievable Goals
The purpose of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights is to promote and protect the basic freedoms and rights of all Africans. Under Article 16 it recognizes that all individuals have the right to the best attainable state of mental health, and places the onus on the State parties present to the Charter to take all necessary measures to achieve this. However, in Nigeria alone the prevalence of severe mental illness is at 20%. Nigeria is representative of other West African countries that share similar mental health profiles. The purpose of this paper is to provide a clear picture of the state of Nigeria’s mental health care delivery system with a focus on rural communities, and offer achievable goals and programs as partial solutions. Effective mental health care is a human right and poor mental health is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. It is linked to lower worker productivity, performance, and attendance, and to higher workplace accidents. In Nigeria the current ratio of psychiatrists to citizens is 1:1,400,000 with less than 150 psychiatrists in the whole country. The psychiatrists preside solely in urban areas with rural communities mostly receiving mental health care services through primary health care facilities run by staff lacking in proper mental health care and sometimes primary health care training. The perceptions and beliefs in rural communities toward mental health care and those who are mentally ill cause many Nigerians to either refuse care or to seek services from religious and spiritual healers. These are only some of the challenges in delivering effective mental health care services in rural Nigeria. This paper will begin by providing a historical look at the development of mental health care in Nigeria followed by a discussion of the delivery of mental health care within the Nigerian primary health care delivery system, and an analysis of the perceptions and beliefs in rural communities toward mental illness. Finally, two international advocacy and training programs, the Mental Health Gap Action program and the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program, will be introduced as partial solutions to reducing the gap between need and availability of mental health care services in rural Nigeria.