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15 Ideas to Celebrate Human Rights Day

Since 1950, December 10 has been recognized globally as Human Rights Day. It’s in honor of when the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948. All across the world, nonprofits, governments, and individuals hold special events to celebrate the UDHR and human rights activism, while also raising awareness of important human rights issues and trends. How can you celebrate Human Rights Day? Here are 15 ideas:

# Activity
1 Volunteer
2 Donate
3 Human Rights Day event
4 Book club
5 Movie night
6 Blog or social media post
7 Fundraiser
8 Classroom activity
9 Library reading
10 “Write for Rights”
11 Advocates ceremony
12 Art exhibit
13 Self-advocacy workshop
14 Festival
15 Vigil

#1. Volunteer at a local human rights organization

Every community has organizations working on human rights and social justice. A few examples include food banks, free medical clinics, refugee services, homeless shelters, and more. Most of these organizations need volunteers. While you may not be able to volunteer on December 10th, volunteering at least once around this time is a great way to honor Human Rights Day. If possible, consider volunteering on a more regular basis, even if it’s just once a month or a few times a year.

#2. Donate to a human rights cause

Nonprofits operate with tight budgets, while there’s no shortage of people on crowdfunding websites asking for help with medical bills, funerals, and more. If you have some extra cash, consider donating in recognition of Human Rights Day. It doesn’t need to be much. While nonprofits love large gifts, it’s the more consistent, smaller funds that keep their work sustainable. You can vet a nonprofit’s reputation on sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar. If you want to give directly to an individual or family through a crowdfunding website, read the terms of service carefully. Places like GoFundMe take a percentage of each donation for operating costs.

#3. Attend a local (or online) Human Rights Day event

Nonprofits, government agencies, libraries, and other places often host Human Rights Day events. If you want to attend in person, check your local area for workshops, readings, lectures, conferences, and other activities. You can also find events hosted online, which is more convenient for many people. If you can’t find (or can’t attend) an event on Human Rights Day itself, look for other human rights and social justice activities you can attend at a later date.

#4. Host a human rights book club

If you’re part of a book club, consider asking your group to read a book about human rights for December! There are countless fiction and non-fiction books covering topics like racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, children’s rights, refugee rights, and much more. Take some time to write thoughtful discussion questions. You can also create a list of ideas on how to participate in the promotion and protection of human rights, whether that’s through donating money, volunteering, or more actively engaging in existing human rights activities and programs around town.

Not sure what book to suggest? Here’s our list of 13 inspiring books on human rights.

#5. Host a human rights movie night

A movie night is an engaging, low-commitment way to get people together for Human Rights Day. It’s also a good activity because nonprofits, businesses, religious organizations, and individuals can all host. Whether your event features 100 people or just a few close friends, a human rights movie night is a great way to learn more about human rights, build solidarity, and discuss how your community can make a difference in the world. Every movie night needs snacks! If your event will have lots of people, you can reach out to local restaurants to see if they’ll offer discounts. They’re more likely to accommodate nonprofits.

Need ideas for a movie? Here’s our list of 13 social justice movies.

#6. Write a short blog or social media post about Human Rights Day

If you like to write or are active on social media, you can celebrate Human Rights Day by writing a short blog or post. You can write about what human rights mean to you personally or share an issue you’re passionate about. You can share the post with a few close family and friends, or make the post public. If you enjoy writing or are active on social media, Human Rights Day can be a good opportunity to share a post or a short blog. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; it could be a simple reflection on what human rights mean to you, or a mention of an issue you care about. Sharing it with family, friends or publicly allows you to express your thoughts and perhaps get others thinking about human rights too. It’s a small but meaningful way to acknowledge the day and the values it stands for.

#7. Organize a fundraiser

You can make a small donation to a human rights cause on your own, but if you want to encourage your community to donate, consider organizing a fundraiser! If you work for a nonprofit, you’re most likely somewhat familiar with fundraising events, but it’s something just about anyone can do with a little research. Websites like Facebook even let individual users set up fundraisers that benefit their favorite nonprofits. If you decide to organize a larger-scale event with entertainment, food, silent auctions, and other more interactive elements, you’ll need to plan. Even if you can’t host a fundraiser for this year’s Human Rights Day, it could be something you organize for next year!

How do nonprofits organize donor events? Here’s our 10-step guide.

#8. Bring Human Rights Day into the classroom

If you’re a student or teacher interested in Human Rights Day, consider recognizing the holiday in your classroom. Places like the United Nations offer lots of potential resources, while you can also host a movie or discussion in class. For more student participation, ask them to research a current human rights issue and present it to the class on or around December 10th. If you’re the parent of a student, contact your child’s school to see if the school is already planning something or if there are ways you can get involved.

#9. Host a library reading for kids

Kids need to learn about human rights, but it should be done in an engaging, inspiring, and kid-friendly way. Luckily, there are lots of human rights books written with kids in mind. The library is a great place to hold a human rights story hour where parents can bring their kids. Story hours can also include interactive activities, songs, crafting, and more. Best of all, library readings are free, so every child is welcome. If possible, libraries can also ask the author of the book to do a reading themselves!

Here’s a list of human rights books for kids from Amnesty International.

#10. Join “Write for Rights”

Every Human Rights Day, Amnesty International holds its famous “Write For Rights” campaign. It is the organization’s largest annual letter-writing campaign. With the toolkit, which is offered on the AI website, participants write letters on behalf of those whose rights are being violated. Hundreds of thousands of people write letters every year. You can join local letter-writing parties (which are tracked on the event map), write as an individual, or host private events.

#11. Organize a ceremony for human rights advocates

Every community has human rights advocates working on issues like gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, houselessness, racial justice, and more. Human Rights Day is a great time to honor their hard work, sacrifices, and achievements. The celebration also lets advocates describe their work and what the rest of the community can do to help. Nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations are great hosts for ceremonies like this. If you don’t have experience planning events, ask around your community for help.

#12. Curate an art exhibit

Art is one of the most powerful tools for human rights. Galleries, art stores, museums, libraries, and other places where it makes sense to display art are great spots for exhibits. There are lots of artists and art pieces depicting various aspects of human rights. Organizers can search for (and get permission) to use art from artists around the world or commission art from members of the local community. You can curate a specific theme (such as human rights and children) or use the exhibit to raise awareness of human rights in general.

#13. Organize a workshop on self-advocacy

Self-advocacy workshops often center on empowering people with disabilities, but they can help anyone understand their rights and how to best advocate for themselves. Discrimination targets people based on their age, race, gender, sexuality, and more. A self-advocacy workshop, which can include role-playing activities, lectures, discussions, and so on, helps people understand the law and their human rights. They also help build communication skills, emotional resilience, and more.

#14. Organize a Human Rights Day festival

Festivals bring community members of all ages together in a fun, interactive way! To ensure the festival is well-attended, it’s a good idea to hold it on the weekend, even if Human Rights Day itself is on a weekday. Ideas for vendors and activities include food carts, live theater and music, activism workshops, book reading, games for kids, art exhibits, and more. Organizing a festival is hard work, so you’ll want to start planning far in advance. Sponsors are also important, so seek out partners who believe in human rights and want to participate in their promotion.

#15. Hold a vigil

Human Rights Day can be encouraging and celebratory, but it also provides opportunities for reflection and remembrance. Lots of people have had their human rights violated. December 10th is a good day to honor them. Vigils, which are often held late in the afternoon or into the night, can recognize specific people or events. They can also honor all victims and survivors of human rights abuses. If you want to hold a public vigil, be aware of any legal requirements or risks to the safety of participants. If you decide to keep the vigil private for safety or organizational reasons, that’s acceptable, too. Vigils often include singing, prayers, short speeches, and moments of silence.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.