Education is fundamental to advocacy. Before members of your community act, they must first be made aware of human rights violations. To raise awareness, options include hosting a speaker or a panel, a film screening, or a conference. Be aware of the advantages of collaboration. Educational events are also a great way to recruit new members and spread the work about your chapter.
Speakers and Panels
Use faculty at your institution or local experts to put together a panel on an issue of importance (e.g. Health/Human rights, HIV/AIDS). Once you have decided on the issue of the panel, enlist speakers to discuss different aspects of the issue. Find a venue at your institution or somewhere locally. Hold a Q&A session after the speakers have finished, so that the audience can ask questions. If needed, draft a series of questions to ask the speakers during the session. Advertise for the event via flyers, internet (facebook, myspace, e-mail), and newspapers. Contact appropriate local human rights organizations to help advertise and sponsor the event.
A presentation by an informed and dynamic speaker is an effective way of motivating students, faculty and the community to become engaged in human rights. Finding an expert on your issue to address a group is not as hard as you think. There are several sources:
You can find speakers on specific issues by researching relevant organizations, your school’s academic departments, other schools, hospitals, health professional organizations and Google. An internet search will also turn up a number of speakers’ bureaus, but they tend to represent speakers who command large fees. For the budget-conscious, look into NGOs and websites dedicated to your specific issue. PHR can provide useful recommendations as well.
When looking for a speaker, keep the issue paramount: the most effective presentations feature speakers who are credible on the issue and convey genuine passion and commitment.
- Before choosing a speaker, film, or presentation topic, set clear goals for your event.
- When researching a speaker, find out what costs are involved. Some speakers require an honorarium; others may waive their fee but require that travel and other out-of-pocket costs be covered. Other may donate their time and cover their own expenses. Be sure that you understand clearly what costs you will need to cover. If your chapter has inadequate funds, plan to raise funds or approach the student activities office or academic departments for sponsorship.
- Invite your speaker well in advance of your event, at least two months. That way, if your first choice is not available, you’ll have time to find someone else. Nevertheless, if you must plan your event quickly, it never hurts to ask — your speaker may be available on short notice.
- Ask about your school’s policy on speakers. Some schools require permits, signatures from the administration, or another form of approval of individual speakers.
- Create a program flow for the event with set times, roles for event organizers, and time at the end for attendees to take action. Assign a host or contact person for your speaker(s).
- Prepare a written introduction on the speaker(s) and the issue and ask the speaker(s) to approve it.
- Coordinate travel for your speaker(s). Build in extra time in case of travel delays or emergency. If your speaker is not familiar with your campus, provide a map with information about parking, and hang a sign on the door of the building. Ask your speaker to arrive with sufficient time to get settled before the event begins. You are the host: introduce your speaker to the organizers, relevant faculty or advisors, and any other presenters.
- You may be able to set up meetings between your speaker and smaller groups before or after your event, e.g., with policymakers or faculty.
- Start publicizing in school and community newspapers, online, etc, two to three weeks in advance and plan for a “publicity blitz” in the five days leading up to the event.
- Invite the media. Contact reporters and editors, issue a press release; arrange interviews or a press conference if appropriate.
- Videotape or audiotape the event. Be sure to get permission from the speaker to use the tape. It can be a great educational and advocacy tool, and is a good way of documenting your chapter activities.
Screening a film is a great way to attract a range of people, demonstrate how relevant human rights are to many situations, and help develop awareness of or sympathy for an issue. Choose an interesting topic – for example, asylum and detention, access to health care, HIV/AIDS, clean water, infectious diseases, or a historical or political situation. To find a film that addresses that issue, consult the suggested film list <<link to list of films>>. Choose the number of films that you want to run, and have a film series. Have a weekend film festival, or spread out the films by showing one film at the same time each day for a week, or each week for several weeks. Enlist members of your chapter to help by finding films/documentaries to show, getting the rights to the film if needed, advertising for the event via flyers, posters, the internet (facebook, personal e-mail invitations or listservs), newspapers, and local organizations. Invite fellow classmates, faculty, and local community members. Collect donations or raise money for a cause or organization.
On the day of the screening, give a brief introduction to the documentary and the issues covered. Another option is to collect donations for the cause/theme of the screening.
Symposium or Conference
Host a symposium or conference at your institution on an issue of importance (Global Health Disparities, Access to Medications, HIV/AIDS). Find a venue for the conference at your institution (and be sure to have the appropriate number of rooms for sessions). Choose a keynote speaker, and enlist members of your chapter or outside experts to run workshops and lectures. Advertise for the conference via flyers, internet, and newspapers. Send invitations to your local community, local organizations, and colleges and universities in your region.
Health and Human Rights Education
Want to change the way your school teaches medicine and public health? Want to educate your entire class–and all the classes that come after you? Be a part of PHR’s Health and Human Rights Education Program (HHRE), and start a new course, elective or lecture series at your institution. Check out our HHRE toolkit here for all you need to create lasting curriculum on human rights and health. PHR has HHRE mentors who can also help you plan and strategize: contact Hope at firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected.
Other Ideas for Education and Engagement
PHR student chapters have always been very creative in identifying opportunities for education. Chapters have held arts shows, talent shows, walks, made AIDS quilts, and more. We encourage you to find new and different ways of mobilizing your campus–let us know about your original efforts and we may feature them in this toolkit!
The Advantages of Collaboration
Collaboration increases the potential to create change by expanding your reach and leveraging resources. Collaboration can range from co-sponsoring one event with one or more other groups, to forming a coalition to work on a long-term campaign. Simply put: The more committed individuals and groups you can involve in your campaign efforts, the bigger impact you can make.
- Widen your reach: Build your attendance at events; increase the number of people willing to take action.
- Brainstorm: Take advantage of different perspectives- they can lead to a more comprehensive approach to an issue
- Build credibility: Different communities coming together on an issue can enhance credibility with a wider audience
- Share resources: Pool your resources and connections to make a greater impact
- Create a bigger presence for your group: Demonstrate to chapter members and potential members that they are a part of a larger movement
Examples of Collaboration in Action:
- The recent national Day of Action is a great example of collaboration in action. Several PHR chapters worked together with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines chapters to urge local politicians to support a bill that would require all medicines from universities to be accessible to developing countries.
- Student chapters partnered with their human rights advocacy chapters, Student Global AIDS Campaign chapters, and other campus groups to take action during World AIDS Day.
- Physicians for Human Rights has worked in the past with Student Global AIDS Campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the Global Health Council, and the International Federation of Medical Students Association, among others. You might want to contact these and other like-minded organizations to find out if there are chapters or members on your campus or in your local community.