How Much Time Do You Have?
Things you can do to promote human rights…
In a few minutes...
In a few hours…
In a few days, weeks, or months…
- Don’t be indifferent if you witness a bias incident or hear hate speech. Become an ally for the target whether that means safely intervening on their behalf, providing much needed comfort, or simply distracting them from the ugliness around them.
- If someone you know makes derogatory comments or engages in stereotyping, explain why and how those words and ideas contribute to a culture of harm and inequality.
Reconsider what you buy
- Human rights issues shape our everyday lives as consumers. Learn if the products you buy and the companies you support with your purchases protect and promote human rights or violate them.
- Flower growers should protect workers from exposure to toxins.
- The people who sew your soccer ball should receive fair wages.
- Your chocolate should not be produced with child labor.
- Clothing should be produced in safe working conditions by workers who have the right to organize
- Cell phones and electronics must not use conflict minerals that fuel war and violence.
- Download apps to your phone or electronic device that educate you on human rights, help you shop products and companies that have fair labor standards, and strengthen the human rights community.
Use social media to promote human rights
- Post human rights stories and photos.
- Change your profile picture to support a rights-based cause.
- Retweet an empowering hashtag and make human rights trend.
- Sign an online petition and then spread the word.
- Visit the website of an international human rights organization like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or Physicians for Human Rights and join an online advocacy campaign.
Contribute money to organizations in your community that promote and defend human rights, equality, and justice. Domestic violence shelters protect women’s rights, food banks promote access to food, and a variety of local and national organizations promote civil rights.
- The right to vote in elections and participate in the political life of a community is a treasured human right and necessary for protecting a rights culture. Use it to protect and advance your rights and the rights of others.
- Increase your human rights knowledge by researching a human rights issue you care about. Watch documentaries, read articles, and study human rights reports produced by independent experts and human rights organizations.
- Study how to resist human rights violations so that you are prepared when you see them occurring in your own community.
- Participate in free online training courses on human rights advocacy or safely documenting human rights violations. Free training resources are available through Witness.org, The Advocates for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, among others.
- Read about human rights defenders. Learn how ordinary people have faced, resisted and organized to overcome extraordinary injustice.
Practice exercising your own rights by contacting your elected officials
- In democracies, elected officials are accountable to the citizens. Calling, texting, emailing and writing letters to elected officials at all levels of government (local, state, and national) incentivizes them to support rights-based policies.
Attend a protest, demonstration, rally, or meeting
- Voice your opinions and demonstrate your concern about human rights violations. Gathering with others who share your views generates solidarity, focuses attention, and it also encourages brainstorming and creative problem-solving for how to solve human rights problems. Voices united become amplified and can lead to human rights change.
- Writing letters on behalf of people who need urgent help has become a hallmark of human rights activism. Each year Amnesty International hosts a “write for rights” campaign you can join.
- Write letters on your own or organize letter writing on your campus – write to campus decision-makers, elected officials, global leaders – and use the power of collective action to change minds and policies.
Become a Volunteer, Ally or Mentor
- Examine your own biases and challenge assumptions you may hold.
- Participate in an anti-racism workshop or diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
- Approach organizations that share your values and people you want to support. Ask how you can be an effective ally to them. Listen to what they say. Amplify their voices and follow their lead. Respect the mantra, “Nothing about us, without us.”
- Are spaces on your campus and in your community equally accessible for all?
- Does your community have a plan to celebrate diversity, promote equity, and increase inclusion on campus?
- Are the cultural and religious traditions of all members respected?
- Does your community provide an inclusive and safe learning environment for people of all nationalities, races, religions, abilities, genders, sexualities and gender identities?
Lobby for legislation or petition campus leaders for rights-centric policies
- Understand your issue from multiple angles and develop a variety of frames for your argument (legal, moral, fiscal, political).
- Identify the appropriate targets for advocacy
- know who you share common ground with and enlist them as allies
- identify decision-makers who might be sympathetic to your cause
- identify decision-makers whose support would be the most impactful
- Write out a script for phone calls and in person visits or a template for emails and letters
- Make contact – and try to interact with your targets personally.
Create and disseminate educational materials
- Once you’ve investigated human rights violations and gathered information about the possibilities for change, you can produce informational flyers, brochures, pamphlets, blogs, or a website to promote your findings, educate others, and organize action.
- Make your materials accessible to a wide audience. Use videos with captions or sign language, large fonts, and multiple languages that reach diverse communities.
Organize an event to promote tolerance and acceptance
- Raise awareness about violations, offer support to those affected, educate others, and teach others how they can help.
- Be proactive. Build community among diverse peoples by creating events that celebrate shared values, enhance cultural exchange, and promote friendship through food, music, and dance.
Join or start an organization to carry on the work beyond your event
- Have a clear vision of the change you hope to make.
- Collaborate with like-minded people and organizations with similar goals.
- Be inclusive and make your movement accessible to join.
- Raise awareness.
Reproduced from Carrie Booth Walling, Morgan Armstrong, Marco Antonio Colmenares Jr., and Caitlin Cummings, “The Human Rights Advocacy Toolkit,” in Human Rights and Justice for All: Demanding Dignity in the United States and Around the World (Routledge, 2022).