Building Awareness

Using the emotional power of a historic site and personal stories to raise awareness of current human rights questions

Recreating an 1897 apartment and dressmaking shop, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum brings together representatives from conflicting sectors of the garment industry to discuss what needs to be done — and by whom — to address the problem of sweatshops today.

Using the arts to connect human rights to local culture and tradition

The Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in Egypt uses arts and literature to demonstrate that human rights are, and have long been, celebrated in Arab cultures. Although many Arab states supported the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), several have since portrayed the UDHR, and human rights protection more generally, as a Western concept.

Training organizations to place their social justice work into the context of human rights, thereby providing advocates with a new set of tools and access to new alliances

The National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) trains organizations in the United States to frame social justice issues as human rights issues. While many organizations in the United States work on social issues, few think of their work in terms of human rights.

Tracking the work of government officials online to fight corruption

The city government in Seoul, South Korea, has created an online database to increase government transparency. Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil Applications (OPEN) allows city residents to monitor details of civil applications related to 70 municipal government tasks that have been identified as the most prone to corruption, including housing and construction projects, environmental regulation and urban planning.

Teaching people in rural areas about their rights and connecting them to lawyers to defend those rights

The Thongbai Thongpao Foundation (TTF) in Thailand brings free legal assistance to rural residents, along with training on basic human rights and laws affecting their daily lives. While Thailand enjoyed rapid economic growth in the 1990s, much of the improved standard of living was concentrated in metropolitan areas. Rural populations lag behind economically and have little awareness of the rights guaranteed by modern Thai law. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by corrupt officials and moneylenders.

Raising public awareness of impunity through a referendum or petition drive

Using a constitutional provision that had never been invoked, Comisión Nacional Pro-Referéndum (CNR) orga­nized a referendum in Uruguay, so that the public could vote on the congressional decision to grant impunity to human rights abusers employed by the military. In order to petition the government to hold a popular referendum, CNR needed, within one year of the impunity law’s passage, to collect the signatures of 25 percent of citizens who were qualified to vote.

Publicly exposing abusers through targeted demonstrations

Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio (Children for Identity and Justice Against Forget­fulness and Silence, or H.I.J.O.S) organizes targeted demonstrations in front of the homes of people who have been identified as perpetrators of human rights abuses. These demonstrations, called escraches (“unmaskings”), publicly expose the abusers and allow communities to express their moral condemnation.

Providing parents with funds that allow them to send their children to school rather than to work

The Bolsa Escola program in Brazil provides families with a monthly stipend so that children can attend school rather than working in the streets. The program, which began in the city of Brasilia, was created with the realiza­tion that the working children of today are the poor adults of tomorrow. Bolsa Escola was expanded to a federal program in 2001.

Organizing mock tribunals to raise awareness of human rights abuses and influence public policy

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, along with the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, organized the first National Tribunal on Violence against Women. Held in March 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria’s capi­tal, the tribunal was unofficial and not legally binding, but the testimony was real. Thirty-three women testified, sharing their experiences in order to help the public learn about the abuses suffered by women in their homes, in their communities and at the hands of the government, including sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and female genital mutilation.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

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