You don’t have to work explicitly for a human rights organization to help advance human rights, whether your interests are global or local. Here are my tips for engaging in human rights work, despite your career or schooling background.
1. Figure out what you are passionate about.
We all are passionate about different things – but have you taken the time to figure out what truly moves you? For me, it’s LGBTI rights, mental health, and disaster relief work. Identify where your heart lies, and then you can begin to follow it.
2. Research what you are passionate about
Start reading and learning everything that you can about your passion. Figure out what journals write about your interests. Identify and learn the policies involved, as well as the history and development of your cause at hand. These things matter, and are critical to understand in order to posit various arguments and figure out where different stakeholders opinion’s stem from.
3. Identify the players in the space
Who is working to advance your cause? Figure out what local organizations, NGOs, advocacy and legal groups, United Nations organizations, school programs are already working to advance [LGBTI rights, women’s rights, environmental justice] Collaboration is critical to send messages, and the more players you know in the space, the more comprehensive picture you will have at learning the current landscape of your issue.
4. What are your skills and abilities? What can you offer?
So you want to help advance a cause, but you are also a full-time environmental or engineering student. Maybe you always wished you could work at the United Nations, but you are working a clerkship at the beginnings of your legal career. That’s perfect! The advancement of different causes is most successful when the efforts are interdisciplinary. For example, if your passion was advocating for better structure of refugee camps, you would need to understand how multiple sectors of the cluster system, such as water and sanitation, all play together in this space. In the fight for immigration justice, we need culturally competent lawyers that will volunteer their time to represent refugees and asylum seekers. And in managing any human rights campaign, we always need technicians, information officers, and human resources professionals. No matter what your background is, or what you are doing now, there is a way that you can serve.
5. How can you effectively apply your skills (social media, letter writing, in person campaigning, event planning)
Okay, so you have figured out what your passion is, as well as what your skills and abilities are. So now how do you get to work? Well you have to first figure out what platforms are the most comfortable for your to work within. For example, an 18 year old freshmen might want to research and write articles on their own blog, versus a 65 year old teacher might rather develop a human rights lessons for her class, or hand write letters to Congress or other public officials. The truth is, we need to be present on all of these platforms to be effective, and we need people from as many backgrounds as possible. Other vehicles can be twitter, facebook, blogs, instagram, writing publications, writing letters to public officials, writing targeted messages to global figures and organizations, creating events in your community or other important spaces, and hosting open discussions at your university or place of worship.
6. Be and embrace yourself.
Odds are that you have gotten where you are today because you have followed your own moral compass and values – just by continuing to live each day from your heart, you are creating a more open, understanding world. When we learn to love and embrace ourselves, we find more compassion for others that are from different backgrounds and hold different opinions. Understand that no matter where you study, where you work, that just by being yourself, you are doing your part to make the world a better place. As more individuals learn to love themselves, understand their true talents and abilities, and apply them to their passion, the world’s consciousness will continue to shift towards that of a more peaceful, globally aware community.
Written by Brieanna Scolaro, LMSW.
Ms. Scolaro has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. She has engaged in human rights work in the non-profit and United Nations community. She is also an Americorps NCCC Fema Corps alumna.
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