5 ways to support human rights in a free country
Living in countries that value individual rights and freedom over any other, it's hard to imagine places where human rights and human lives value so little. For instance, would you worry about being jailed after criticising the government on Instagram? The beauty of living in a free country is that we can start and support movements to help our oppressed brethren in other parts of the world.
Here are 5 ways you can support human rights in a free country.
1. Understand and share
Before deciding whether you would like to support a particular movement, you should have a reasonable understanding about the cause area and the objective that it is going to achieve. Books like "I am Malala", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Long Walk to Freedom" can give you more in-depth knowledge about human rights movements and equip you with the essential vocabularies going forward.
Information is power. Knowing what is happening in countries where human rights abuse is rampant can help you contribute in meaningful ways that add true value to the people who are suffering. You can subscribe to credible organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In a world where fake news and misinformation is capturing people’s eyeballs, it is becoming more important to support responsible journalism. To make sure that your fellow network can also benefit from that exposure, share your favourite articles from these journals often, and contribute financially if you can.
2. Join local activist group, organise a campaign
There are many activist groups and organisations around the world that are dedicated to helping improve human rights conditions. You can join their ranks, and this will help you collaborate with like-minded people. Groups like Amnesty International and Atlas Movement operate on a global scale and would benefit from volunteers with different skill sets such as campaigns mobilisation, translations, policy researches.
You can also join and volunteer for local activist groups to organise campaigns and rallies on issues that you care about. For example, if you are in the UK and care about the coup situation in Myanmar, volunteer for Burma Campaign UK. Not only on the street, but spreading the message on social media. You can also multiply the effect by quoting activist artworks in your messaging (while noting copyright issues). For example, the artist Loboboy astutely described the situation of enforced disappearance in Thailand through this painting.
3. Engage with your local legislators and politicians
No human rights group or activist can create change alone. It takes support from the people in power to implement anything. This is why it's important to work actively with your local lawmakers and politicians.
Do your research and relate how a particular cause appeals to a candidate’s personal history and affects the constituency and future election prospects. To push for actions, try to frame the problems and potential solutions using the languages that the lawmakers or political parties are using.
4. Donate to an organisation or fundraiser
Donations in the form of cash and kind can be immensely helpful for human rights projects. It is important to think about whom you want to benefit while choosing an effective and well-recognised organisation for donation: be it humanitarian aid, advocacy and lobbying or even legal support for people prosecuted by oppressed regimes.
5. Act and buy ethically
Sometimes, human rights violations happen right in front of our eyes, even worse, we might be contributing to the problems ourselves but we never realise it. For example, you might want to beware of your own unconscious bias before advocating for racial justice. Or, are you aware some companies use forced labour to produce their products or raw materials e.g, cotton?
We can prevent such abuse by being mindful of what we do and who we buy from. Whenever you purchase something, ask the seller about their sourcing & manufacturing process. Do research online prior to choosing their product / service. You can refer to this ethical shopping guide to learn how to become a mindful shopper.
In some social movements, patrons even went beyond indicating the businesses which support their causes. In Hong Kong, the Yellow Economic Circle was created to differentiate and support those merchants that are pro-democracy.