Becoming a Defender

Anyone can advocate for justice, equality, and human rights. Ordinary people in our community and abroad have used human rights to expose injustice, confront perpetrators, demand political action, and generate just solutions to human rights problems. 

Human rights defenders believe that all people are equal in dignity in respect.

Human rights defenders hold themselves – and their friends – accountable. They challenge themselves and others to change their words and behaviors in ways that promote equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging.

Human rights defenders have deep empathy for the experiences of others. They listen to the ideas and experiences of others. They learn to see injustice – and sometimes their role in it – in an effort to stop it. 

Human rights defenders speak up and stand up with and for others. They are inclusive in their words and actions. They call out hate and bigotry when they see it, stand in solidarity with others, promote equality, dignity, justice, and rights, and celebrate diversity. 

Human rights defenders invest in their communities and build networks of like-minded people who share their beliefs and values.

Human rights defenders advocate for social, political, economic, and cultural change. They raise their voices in opposition to injustice and foster awareness of human suffering and how to change it. 

Human rights defenders keep trying – when its hard, after failure, following success. They are flexible, creative, and they persist.

Wellness: Caring for Humanity and Ourselves

Human rights defenders live their values. This means prioritizing the physical and mental wellness of themselves and others. Defenders can’t fight for others if they don’t care for themselves. 

Human rights defenders build networks of solidarity. They organize and build relationships with people who share and exchange ideas and inspiration.

Human rights defenders develop care-giving practices and healthy coping mechanisms that rest their minds, refresh their hearts, and nurture well-being in others.

Human rights defenders measure progress and celebrate victories, even the small ones.

Human rights are about about dignity and not just survival. Human rights defenders find inspiration. Activism can cultivate joy and employ fun to counteract a hate-filled world.

Adapted from Carrie Booth Walling, Morgan Armstrong, Marco Antonio Colmenares Jr., and Caitlin Cummings, “Human Rights Advocacy Toolkit,” in Human Rights and Justice for All: Demanding Dignity in the United States and Around the World (Routledge, 2022)