January 22, 2019 | ° F

Rutgers professor discusses human rights, relation to economic status

Photo by samantha casimir |

Radhika Balakrishnan, executive director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership and a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, spoke about the financial crisis and how changing economic situations impacted human rights around the world.

Attendees of the lecture, "The Radical Potential of Human Rights," expanded their understanding of racial and gender discrimination in terms of macroeconomic policy, said Radhika Balakrishnan, a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies and executive director at the Center for Women's Global Leadership.

She spoke at "The Radical Potential of Human Rights" in the Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building on Douglass campus on Jan. 28.

Balakrishnan is an economist, a researcher, a book editor and a lifelong advocate for social justice in addition to her roles at Rutgers.

The talk was part of the Institute for Research on Women's 2015-2016 Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual lecture series with a variety of speakers on issues related to women, gender and sexuality, according to their website. The theme for the 2015-2016 school year is poverty.

The Institute for Research on Women is part of the School of Arts and Sciences and serves to research and expand on feminist activism within Rutgers, according to their website.

Balakrishnan was the fifth speaker this year for the lecture series out of seven.

In her lecture, Balakrishnan discussed economics as it relates to human rights in-depth, focusing on the impact of a variety of economic systems on people, their standards of living and freedoms.

Balakrishnan has a background with human rights and activism stemming back to her youth.

"I'm an activist, I come from a social justice background," she said. "I went to college in the 70's … and I did a lot of work on gender and feminism (during that time)."

Balakrishnan has a PhD in economics from Rutgers. She said her interest in education and becoming an economist was about understanding the economy as part of her commitment to social justice.

Issues may be resolved with collective action and responsibility, she said.

The goal of the lecture was to be able to present the work that she has done in her upcoming book, called "Rethinking Economic Policy for Social Justice," set to be released this upcoming May, she said.

She co-edited the book with James Heintz of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Diane Elson of the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.

Nations need to agree to a global economic order that prioritizes human rights, Balakrishnan said.

Quazanae Dasher, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she is a member of the Institute for Research on Women.

Dasher said she was glad she came to the event. She enjoyed how Balakrishnan discussed inequality.

"It's not just money or poverty," she said, "It's also health and housing … and society doesn't really pay attention to (these things)."

This lecture will impact her life going forward, as it broadened her perspective and offered her information to keep in mind, she said.

Yasmeen Hamadeh, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, was another member of Institute for Research on Women who attended the event.

"The (main) thing that stuck out to me that she said is that human rights and inequality are not exactly the same thing, because a lot of people say that inequality is infringing on human rights, but that's not exactly the truth," she said.

Rather than arguing that inequality exists, people should examine what their effect is, she said.

Balakrishnan said she hopes both her lecture and her book will invite the public to rethink the economy and human rights.

"We really need to rethink the way economic policy works right now," she said "… We're in a moment in history in which we really need a different way to evaluate how the economy works."

Abigail Lyon

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