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Words Take Flight: Six Women Attempt To Break a Guinness World Record
by Julie Norwell

On November 3 six women will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for "Longest Reading Aloud Marathon by a Team" in Miami Dade College Interamerican Campus by reading the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – over and over again – for 24 hours per day for 10 days. The team is composed of members of the International Solidarity for Human Rights – The New Generation, a nonprofit devoted to educating people around the world about human rights. ISHR, which expects to repeat the 30 Articles about 1,200 times during the event, will stream the event live on the Internet to reach the greatest number of people possible. WomenOf.com Editor Julie Norwell spoke with ISHR Co-Founder Devorah Sasha a few days before the event.

How old is International Solidarity for Human Rights and why did you create it?
It will be one year old in December. [Co-Founder] Elizabeth Sanchez Vegas was involved in an organization that helps children in Haiti. She worked three years there and decided to found her own organization that married her experience with children to human rights. Three of us in the group are from Venezuela, two are Cuban-Americans and one is Colombian, so human rights are particularly important to us. Our group’s mission is to educate a new generation of people about human rights using art. Elizabeth is a former television news anchor, Ana Maria Leonardi is a painter, Lilly Blanco is a multi-media artist, Isabel Viera is an actress, Maria Cristina Alarcon is a journalist and author and I am a singer and composer.

How was the idea for this event born? Have you ever done anything like this before?
This is our first big event. About six months ago we tried to think of what to do and originally thought of doing a show. But then we came up with the idea of attempting a Guinness record.

The event is produced in memory of Eleanor Roosevelt and in honor of The New Generation. Why? What is The New Generation?
Eleanor Roosevelt was an incredible woman who helped write the Articles of the Universal Declaration Human Rights and fought to get them accepted by the United Nations. She is an inspiration to us. “The New Generation" is a title we came up with because we think it’s important to focus on educating young people and future generations of people.

Is it coincidence that you are all women?
We had a man who was a member but we finally decided that our group would have more appeal if we highlighted the women—especially given our focus on Eleanor Roosevelt. We sort of voted him out, although he is still our cameraman. He understood. Supposedly, women are the weaker sex, but women have a lot of strength. Even the prior record-holders of this event were a team from Uruguay of four women and two men. Margaret Thatcher once said: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman."

What do you hope to accomplish – besides getting your names in the Guinness Book of World Records?
Our mission is to educate the greatest number of people we can with this event about what their human rights are because only 5% of the world’s population is even aware that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists and just 1% has read it. This is true even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has become the most translated document in the world since it was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. We want people to know these rights exist and have existed since they were born.

What is significant about the Miami Book Fair International event for your purposes?
We asked Guinness World Records when the best time would be to do this event. They said November would be best because November 13, which is the day after we finish our event, is Guinness World Records Day, the day the organization celebrates new world records. That’s the day they get the most publicity and that would be good for our event. Then we searched for a place that could be accessed 24/7. Miami Dade is a famous university with that kind of access and, coincidentally, happened to be hosting the Miami Book Fair International during that time period. That worked nicely with our theme.

Who do you expect will be your primary audience and how far reaching will your viewers be?
We developed a partnership with Livestream, which will stream our event for 24 hours per day for 10 days. We are trying to get as many viewers as possible, so we will read in both English, which is the world’s universal language, and Spanish. We are advertising the event not only in the United States but also in our home countries. Guinness will have a link to our event on their website. Also, we have partnered with the United Nations and will have 7,500 volunteers spreading the word about our event through the Internet. We would love more advertisement, of course, and have been contacting Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah – even Barack and Michelle Obama in hopes of an interview.

What is the current record?
The current record for Longest Reading Aloud Marathon by a Team is 224 hours. Our goal is 240 hours. But we expect we’ll have all the articles memorized by about Day 3!

You will need to stay on site the entire time. What provisions will be made for your basic needs?
We will each take turns reading for two hours at a time, but we can’t go home. Our water, food and beverages will all be donated by sponsors. McDonald’s, for example, will give us all of our breakfasts. El Dorado Furniture, a big furniture company in Miami, is donating the beds, chairs and other furniture we’ll be using. The university will give us use of the men’s bathroom outside the conference room where the event will be and they will outfit it with a shower for us to use after school hours. Unfortunately, there will be no hot water so we’ll have to take cold showers! We will also have a medic and psychologist available to us because we don’t know what might happen to us in this environment!

We’ll have lots of in-kind sponsorships and a lot of other things going on during this event, too. We have 15 artists who have donated works related to human rights for an exhibition in a gallery. They will be auctioned off afterwards in a silent auction. We’ve invited musicians to come perform music related to human rights for two of the nights. We’ll have a Family Day with different things happening, like dancers performing, and so on. We’ve worked so hard on this for six months that it’s hard to believe that it will all become real in just a few days.


You can watch the progress of the six women of the International Solidarity for Human Rights in their record breaking attempt online at www.livestream.com/ishr.