Part V
B: Encouraging Human Rights Education in Your Community


Crisis situations attract intense, if fleeting, public attention to human rights, but a receptive audience for solid learning about human rights needs to be cultivated with careful analysis, planning, and follow-up. Few people will seek you out to request human rights education. Individuals and organizations that want to educate and build human rights awareness must systematically take the initiative to reach out to audiences.

1. Define Human Rights Education

Educators may need to start by defining human rights education for prospective audiences. Unless challenged, most people assume they know about human rights because they hear the words daily in the media. However, their understanding of the conceptual, legal, historical, and ethical bases of human rights is usually very superficial. You will need to emphasize the relevance of human rights education not only to the general public, but also to seemingly concerned audiences, even committed activists. Most people don't know that they don't know, nor are they especially eager to discover this ignorance. See Part V, "Prospective Audiences for Human Rights Education," p. 108.

2. Identify Likely Audiences

Who are the likely audiences in your community for human rights education? Make a list of potential audiences and think about how to engage them. Build a thorough information list of your identified audiences, including names of contact persons, full contact information, and subjects of probable interest.

a. Include the General Public: Think of attention-getting projects to attract interest in your project or organization and heighten human rights awareness. This might be a "photogenic" march, a photography or art exhibit on a human rights theme, a concert, film, or play, or a panel discussion with prominent experts. You may be able to recruit a well-known local figure who will speak out on some human right issue and be a "draw" for workshops and seminars.

b. Include Power Holders: Consider which decision makers in the community might either be potential allies or feel threatened by your human rights education efforts (e.g., business and religious leaders, elected officials and office holders). Elicit their support: even if they refuse, you will have had an opportunity to explain about human rights education. Invite them to participate in or at least observe a workshop. Present your efforts as a service that benefits the community.

c. Look for Personal Contacts: Knowing someone who is a member of a perspective audience can be a huge advantage. For example, you may gain access to local schools through a teacher or parent. Having a community member arrange a presentation helps to ensure a receptive audience.

d. Be Flexible: When you approach groups to promote human rights education, be willing to adjust to their needs and agendas. While a full-day workshop may be more informative, a group may initially be willing to commit only to a one-hour presentation as part of a monthly meeting. If successful, such brief initial presentations can lead to more in-depth educational opportunities.

e. Follow-up with Audiences: Most human rights educators quickly discover that once people are introduced to human rights, their interest grows; they want to know more and to take action of some kind. So the greater the number of people who learn about human rights, the easier the marketing becomes.

f. Maintain Lists of Participant Names and Addresses: Note where they have special interests (e.g., they attended a panel on the Death Penalty, a lecture on Children's Rights). Invite past participants to future events, especially those on topics of interest. Send participant relevant actions, articles, and other information about human rights issues of interest to them.

3. Seize Opportunities

Interest in human rights responds to world events. The same is true on the occasion of certain anniversaries (e.g., fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration (UDHR) and holidays (e.g., December 10, International Human Rights Day). Take advantage of these surges of interest and calendar events for community outreach. Initiate presentations and workshops to increase general awareness of human rights and its relevance to these events. See Part V, "Human Rights Calendar Opportunities," p. 110-111.

a. Respond to World Events: Be ready when a major human rights crisis occurs (e.g., Rwanda, East Timor, Bosnia) to provide education about the issues to your community, especially to identified audiences like the press, schools, and interested community groups. Have a general plan ready for good ways to educate about world events as they arise (e.g., a panel discussion, a "teach-in" at a college, a march, or demonstration with speakers).

b. Celebrate International Human Rights Day: The anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, is honored across the globe as International Human Rights Day. This holiday provides an ideal opportunity to share information about human right with the general public. There are many possible ways to mark International Human Rights Day:

• Contact target audiences and offer to provide a speaker for the occasion;

• Write editorials or letters to the editor to mark the occasion;

• Hold a public reading of the UDHR, with each article read by someone representing a different component of the community (e.g., youth, elderly, disabled, minority group member);

• Hold a parade in a public place with thirty people each carrying a poster with the text of one article of the UDHR;

• Stage candlelight ceremonies at public gathering places;

• Get the city or state to proclaim the day as a special commemorative occasion;

• Ask religious institutions to light a candle (or thirty candles!) or say a prayer at a service near the date;

• Display books on human rights at the local library and provide copies of the UDHR and reading lists, perhaps printed as a bookmark;

• Establish a local human rights award to be given on this day;

• Announce art or essay contest winners on this day.

4. Create Opportunities

Remember that many people who may never attend a workshop or seminar can nevertheless learn the basic principles of human rights and how it affects them and the world they live in. Integrating education into organizational activities and undertaking special events is an important aspect of dissemination that should not be overlooked. Over time these regular, small, but cumulative efforts may be the most effective means of raising awareness of human rights for the greatest number of people.

Also investigate what resources already exist in your city and country that may be available to borrow, use collaboratively, supplement, or develop further.

a. Establish a Speakers Bureau: Develop a knowledgeable group of people in the area willing to speak to different groups about human rights. They might be academics, activists, or former victims of abuse. When an expert or high-profile person visits your area, make direct contact, and if he or she is willing to speak in your community, advertise the opportunity widely to likely audiences.

b. Establish a Resource Center: Many people don't know where to obtain documents, reports, and background information on human rights. A single file drawer and shelf of books of human rights materials can become an important community resource if people know it exists and are encouraged to use it. Try to collaborate with your public library on building these resources.

c. Establish a Human Rights Award: Honor a person or organization in your community engaged in the effort to improve human rights, whether locally or internationally. Especially consider people working for social and economic rights, which many people do not recognize as human rights. Give the award in conjunction with a special occasion (e.g., International Human Rights Day, December 10).

5. Develop Outreach Tools

The following are some basic materials for outreach to the public:

• Create a simple but attractive brochure that introduces human rights education to prospective audiences or to follow up on an initial contactˇa reminder of the reasons individuals and groups will find learning more about human rights worthwhile. List some of the presentations you can make, issues you can cover, and any materials you have available;

• Have a one-page information sheet available that relates your organization's work to human rights;

• Include one article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on every written communication of your organization, including staff e-mail and memos;

• Display the UDHR and other relevant human rights instruments in your office or classroom;

• Provide copies of the UDHR and other conventions. Give copies to all participants at every presentation;

• Create an up-to-date reading list of fiction and non-fiction on human rights issues;

• Develop a colorful wall poster of the UDHR to leave with every school and organization where you make presentations;

• Build a collection of quotations and phrases for use in presentations and outreach materials.

6. Market to Internal Audiences

Volunteers and staff of your own organization should be the first group to attract to human rights education. Many human rights organizations never actively train their personnel and volunteer leaders about their own mandate and history and usually assume an understanding of human rights. Most activists and staff are self-educated, lacking a common knowledge base and vocabulary, yet the more they understand about human rights, the more meaningful their day-to-day delivery of services can become.

Here are some points in support of human rights education for staff and volunteer leaders:

• Staff members must be knowledgeable in order to respond to public inquiries and communicate clearly with other activists;

• Everyone needs to know human rights principles, not vaguely but explicitly;

• Many organizational priorities, strategies, and mandates derive from international human rights law;

• Everyone working for an organization needs to know what it stands for, its history, how it operates, and the limitations of its work.

Look for opportunities to include human rights education in orientation for new personnel and board members, group leaders, steering committees, and other volunteer leaders. Incorporate human rights education into regular faculty, staff, board, or volunteer activities, such as a retreat, regional meeting, or other regularly scheduled event.

7. Market to External Audiences

a. Collaborate: Seek out other organizations and institutions that work on the same issue. Offer workshops and seminars together.

b. Be Creative: Be on the outlook for ways to introduce human rights education into your community. Networking and experience will help identify other contacts and as you introduce human rights education programs to these audiences, interest will spread and opportunities for further education and outreach will grow.



Academic and Expert Groups (e.g., history, law, political science, philosophy, or religion departments at local colleges and universities)

• Provide information about speakers and human rights education programs;

• Offer to conduct a workshop or presentation in the context of a course or conference;

• Look for extra-curricular groupsˇboth student and facultyˇthat may share an interest in international human rights law;

• Use campus bulletin boards and student centers to showcase program announcements.

Civil Servants and City, Regional, or State Agencies and Commissions (e.g., Commission on the Status of Women, Human Rights Commission, Fair Housing Commission, fire and sanitation workers, transportation officials, judges)

• Offer to present a training on human rights for their group, relating their individual work to the human rights framework.

Elected Officials (e.g., candidates for office, city councils, municipal commissions, associations of mayors)

• Hold a candidates forum on human rights;

• Meet with office holders and familiarize them with your organization and its human rights education work;

• Offer to make a presentation to relevant bodies such as city councils and commissions.

Educators (e.g., school teachers at all levels, administrators and staff, pre-service education students, parent-teacher associations, day-care providers, teachers' unions and professional organizations, school boards)

• Suggest an in-service workshop to orient faculty on human rights and how it relates to the subjects they teach;

• Contact teachers' unions and other professional organizations to propose an article for their newsletter or a presentation at a conference.

Family Members (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family)

• Offer a class for parents of very young children on the rights of the child;

• Offer a "teach-in" for parents of school-age children who are themselves learning about human rights, using children's writings and presentations as part of the learning resources;

• Arrange an on-going group for parents working in the home, perhaps in conjunction with some other community function;

• Invite younger siblings to attend a special "human rights celebration" arranged for them by a class of older children;

• Hold a Human Rights Day gathering to which all members of the family are invited.

Health Care Professionals (e.g., doctors and dentists associations, nursing groups, hospital staff, counselors, and mental health professionals)

• Contact local officers of medical associations to offer programs at regular meetings, conferences, or special presentations;

• Offer resource speakers with specialized knowledge on relevant issues like prison conditions, child abuse, domestic violence, medical ethics and torture, or the effects of chronic hunger;

• Publicize presentations in newsletters and other publications serving medical practitioners, hospitals, and clinics.

Legal Professionals (e.g., lawyers, court officers, bar associations, law students)

• Offer resource speakers with a substantial legal knowledge of human rights;

• Make presentations at local and state American Bar Association meetings;

• Approach law schools and offer presentations on international and regional human rights law, the International Criminal Court, or other relevant issues.

Local Media (e.g., editors of newspapers, program directors at radio and television stations, members of press clubs and chapters of journalists' associations)

• Point out that journalists can report more thoroughly and authoritatively when they have had a thorough briefing on human rights;

• Remember that journalists will be especially interested when human rights crises are in the news, especially if they impact the local community;

• Stress the importance of human rights to local immigrant and refugee populations;

• Point out that journalists are an at-risk group during armed conflict and political crises and stimulate interest in the rights of fellow journalists;

• Invite editors at newspapers and program directors at radio and television stations to attend a human rights education workshop designed for journalists;

• Create press briefings on special issues to fit the needs of journalists;

• Offer to work together on a series of articles on human rights issues.

Members of Faith Communities (e.g., individual denominations, ecumenical groups, ministers' associations, adult or youth education programs, special interest groups within a denomination such as social justice committees)

• Offer to co-lead a study group at a local place of worship;

• Ask faith communities to sponsor some observance of International Human Rights Day.

Members of Professional, Service, and Civic Organizations (e.g., Chambers of Commerce, civic groups, fraternal lodges, professional organizations)

• Offer to make a presentation related to their special concerns at a meeting or conference or provide speakers on subjects of special interest;

• Consider joint sponsorship of a presentation for members or the public on a human rights topic, especially one related to current events;

• Announce trainings in organizational newsletters.

Security Personnel (e.g., state police, local police, National Guard, jail and prison staff)

• Offer to make regular presentations at training institutions;

• Distribute copies of the UN handbook on human rights for law enforcement personnel;

• Offer resource speakers with specialized knowledge on relevant issues.

Senior Citizens (e.g., senior centers, advocacy groups for retired persons, retirement communities, AARP chapters)

• Offer to provide speakers, films and discussions, and other presentations.

• Ask for their participation in letter-writing and other actions.

Social Workers (e.g., case workers, probation officers, foster parents)

• Offer to make presentations on relevant topics;

• Ask their support for relevant campaigns and ratification of the Children's Convention (CRC).

Special Populations

(e.g., prisoners in local and state institutions, disabled people, minority advocacy groups, refugee and immigrant groups)

• Seek out community centers where these groups congregate and offer to make a presentation;

• Meet with leaders to understand their community issues and collaborate in offering appropriate presentations.

Volunteer Members and Staff of Non-profit Organizations and Foundations

(e.g., United Way, Red Cross, charitable agencies, service organizations)

• Offer to conduct a workshop or presentation relating the group's work to the human rights framework (e.g., how people working at a soup kitchen, a children's advocacy group, or a battered women's shelter are engaged in human rights work);

• Show how putting their work into the context of human rights can enhance their advocacy;

• Help them to see how their respective missions interrelate.


(e.g., school assemblies; history, government, and political science classes; extra-curricular clubs; youth organizations; religious education programs)

• Contact principals or department heads and offer to conduct a human rights presentation or workshop in an appropriate class, meeting, or assembly;

• Contact school libraries and offer to provide copies of the Universal Declaration and other relevant documents for reference purposes;

• Organize a poster or essay contest around a human rights theme. Display the winners in prominent places in schools, malls, or public buildings;

• Make classroom and assembly speakers available to schools;

• Sponsor debates and panel discussion on human rights topics;

• Consider a youth retreat or "lock-in" on human rights.



1 Emancipation Proclamation signed 1963

8 World Literacy Day: observed by many UN member stases to foster universal literacy

Martin Luther King Day (born Jan. 15, 1929) (celebrated third Monday)


Black History Month

International Friendship Month

1 Freedom Day: 13th Amendment granting full citizenship to former slaves signed, 1865

20 Non-violent Resistance Day


Women's History Month

8 International Women's Day

21 International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

22 World Day for Water


7 World Health Day: commemorates the establishment of the World Health Organization, 1948

8 Traditional Birthday of the Buddha

11 Anniversary of the US Civil Rights Act of 1968

22 Earth Day, Arbor Day

23 World Book and Copyright Day

30 Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom ha Shoah): remembers the millions who died in Nazi death camps during World War II


Asian-Pacific Heritage Month

Memorial Day (last Monday)

Mother's Day (second Sunday)


1 International Labor Day

1 Law Day: furthers public knowledge, appreciation and respect for law and its benefits to the citizen

3 World Press Freedom Day

5 Cinco de Mayo: commemorates the Battle of Puebla, 1862 and celebrates Chicano and Latino culture

15 International Day of Families

16 UNESCO Day for Cultural Development

31 World No-Tobacco Day


Gay Pride Month

Gay Freedom Day (last Sunday)

Father's Day (3rd Sunday)

3 World Press Freedom Day

4 UN Day of Innocent Children, Victims of Aggression

5 World Environment Day: commemorates the opening of the UN Conference on Human Environment, 1972

15 Magna Carta signed, 1215

17 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

19 Juneteenth: for African Americans, a celebration of freedom

26 UN Charter Day

26 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture


4 United States Independence Day

11 World Population Day

14 Bastille Day: liberation of Bastille Prison, Paris, 1789

26 Atomic Bomb Day (first detonation 1945)


6 Hiroshima Day: remembers victims of the first atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan, 1945

9 International Day of Indigenous Peoples

9 Nagasaki Memorial Day: remembers victims of the second atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan, 1945

12 International Youth Day

23 International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition


Banned Book Month

US Labor Day (first Monday)

8 World Literacy Day

15 International Day of Peace

24 Birthday of Kung Fu-Tzu (Confucius), 551


Domestic Violence Month

Universal Children's Day (first Monday): dedicated to the children of the world

World Habitat Day (first Monday)

1 International Day of Older Persons

2 Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday

5 World Teacher's Day

9 World Post Day

10 World Mental Health Day

11 Eleanor Roosevelt's Birthday

12 Indigenous Peoples Day

16 World Food Day: remembers the over 1 billion people who are chronically hungry

17 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

17 International Day for Tolerance

24 United Nations Day: celebrates the wish for peace, cooperation, and friendship among nations

24 World Development Information Day

31 UNICEF Children's Day


Native American Month

Divali: Indian Festival of Lights

Election Day (1st Tuesday after 1st Monday)

1 Day of the Dead, All Saints Day. Dia de los Muertos

9 International Day Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism

11 International Day of Science and Peace

17 International Day of Tolerance

20 Universal Children's Day

24 World Development Information Day

24 Disarmament Week

25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


1 World AIDS Day

2 International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

3 International Day of Disabled Persons

International Volunteer Day for Social and Economic Development

10 International Human Rights Day

15 Bill of Rights Day

26+ Kwanza, African American Family Unity Holiday

29 International Day for Biological Diversity

Moveable Holidays

Asian New Year


Muharram: Muslim New Year's Day

Obon, the Feast of Lanterns: Buddhist memorial honoring the dead

Passover (15th day of Nissan for 7 days): commemorates the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt

Purim (14 day of Adar in the Jewish calendar): a celebration of survival

Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic calendar): Islam's holiest period when all Muslims are supposed to fast, thanking God for mercy to humanity

Rosh Hashanah (1st-2nd days of Tishri in the Jewish Calendar): New Year, Day of Remembrance

Yom Kippur (9th day of Tishri in the Jewish calendar): Day of Atonement, concludes 10 days of repentance beginning with Rosh Hashanah