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Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights talks history, activism

Navi Pillay
Courtesy of Australian Human Rights Commission

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reflected upon her history in law and human rights, calling for students to stand up for global human rights during a campus roundtable discussion on Monday.

Pillay, who served as the High Commissioner from 2008-2014, traced her dedication to human rights to her childhood in South Africa where, as a woman of color, she faced discrimination.

“Every person of color in South Africa knew their parents weren’t treated with respect,” she said. “It hurts as a child.”

Pillay pushed back against this discrimination, becoming the first woman to open her own law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967. She also served as the first non-white woman judge of the High Court of South Africa, as President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as Commissioner of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.

“You have to be aware of the situation around you and know that there are others less privileged around you,” Pillay said.

Read the full story in the Stanford Daily

This event was sponsored by the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights & International Justice and the Stanford Global Development Association.