Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú
Complimentarity means that you have done something and now I am going to do a little bit more. And between the two of us, we can do something more. Complimentarity means nobody can solve problems by themselves … and this gives birth to a code, the code of respect. If I respect you, you respect me, and I have to respect you if I want you to respect me. So the code of respect crosses all relationships. And little by little it teaches us that we are not the only children of the planet. There are many creatures that are with us permanently. We don’t hear them, why? Because we don’t know how to listen. If we start to build a practice of listening, we’ll be able to find that the solution is very close to us. We will listen and we will start to make decisions with our ears. We won’t only make decisions with our eyes.
The 2015 UNESCO Chair Oration was delivered by social activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Rigoberta Menchú. Dr. Menchú is an internationally renowned voice on Indigenous rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation.
The event was hosted by Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander and opened with a Welcome to Country given by Wurrundjeri Elder Colin Hunter Junior. There were around 130 people in attendance.
“Dr Menchú inspired and challenged her audiences, both at the oration and a workshop earlier in the day, with personal reflections on fundamental ethical questions gained from her life, her struggle, dedicated to justice and reconciliation”, said Professor Fethi Mansouri, UNESCO Chair for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice and the Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.
About Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú is a K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights feminist activist and author, who has dedicated her life to social reform and to publicizing the rights of Guatemala’s Indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War, and to promoting Indigenous rights internationally.
Born in 1959 to a poor Indian peasant family and raised in the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture, the gripping account of Dr Menchú’s life were documented in the book, I, Rigoberta Menchú, which attracted considerable international attention. In 1986, Rigoberta Menchú became a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committee of the Peasant Union, which she had been a member since 1979, and the following year she narrated a powerful film called When the Mountains Tremble, about the struggles and sufferings of the Maya people. On at least three occasions, Rigoberta Menchú has returned to Guatemala to plead the cause of the Indian peasants, but death threats have forced her to return into exile.
Over the years, Rigoberta Menchú has become widely known as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation, not only in Guatemala but in the Western Hemisphere generally, and her work has earned her several international awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Dr. Menchú is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She ran for president of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011, having founded the country’s first Indigenous political party, Winaq, and has become widely known as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation, not only in Guatemala but in the Western Hemisphere generally. Her work has earned her several international awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and the Princess of Asturias Award in 1998.