„What are Human Rights?“- a creative workshop to discover your Human Rights

Winter has already arrived… it’s cold, it’s slippery and it’s dark… I was wondering what to do to bring some light into our everyday life’s monotony and at the same time to greet Human Rights Day properly. I decided to facilitate a creative workshop called “What are human rights?” in LGL’s community center. The workshop took place on December 1st, the very first day of winter, in honor of International Human Rights Day, which takes place on December 10th.

dsc_1710The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a long time coming considering bloody and often oppressive history since the beginning of human civilization. However, the atrocities of the second World War brought world leaders together, and in 1945, made them establish The United Nations – a forum where representatives of the world’s nations could gather and have a diplomatic dialogue with each other. One of the UN goals is to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and a couple of years later, in 1948, on December 10th, the General Assembly issued a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The declaration does not have force of law, but is more of a statement of the goals that each state must achieve in order to meet its citizens’ fundamental rights. For me UDHR is a sort of bible, an expression of my belief that every human being is born free and equal and has the right to a life of dignity. However, the reality is still very different, and we need to fight to make the rights stated in UDHR a reality. What better way to start than organizing a workshop and actually talking about human rights?

Our workshop started with a name game during which we had to describe each other using the adjectives that started with the same letter as our name. As a result we had mature, vicious, lovable, sexy, marvelous, smiling, natural, dangerous, powerful, dsc_1675 inspirational people participating. This created an atmosphere where we could feel comfortable with each other and gave each of us a confidence boost (not to mention that it floated nicely into the next teambuilding activity called Knots). During the Knots activity, we were standing close in a circle and grabbed the hands of random people to build a nice and tight knot. I was worried that we would not make it, cause it looked really tricky. What a surprise it was when we managed to unravel it in less than 3 minutes! It must have been a record or something! We worked beautifully as a team and I was really proud of the participants.

But not everything was game playing (this was after all a workshop regarding human rights). We started to brainstorm the key principles of human rights to dissipate any doubts that human rights are not universal, inalienable, interconnected, interdependent and equal. Not everybody agreed, of course, but where is fun in that? When I (the facilitator) was satisfied with impression I made, we finally started with our main mime activity called Act it out! The main idea of the game is simple, the participants were divided into 3 groups and each one of them had to act out a human right without telling others which right it was, so that they have to guess.

Since human rights are equal, I felt indisposed to pick some right over the other and give it to each team. I put everything in fate’s hands by cutting all 30 human rights articles and putting them into the bowl. One member of each team had to draw one and discreetly show it to team members. As it turned out, all teams managed to pick out the rights that were quite close to each other: article 21, right to vote; article 23, right to just work; and article 24, right to rest and leisure.

dsc_1736It was fun from a facilitator’s point of view to watch each group’s different approach and teamwork. Some had more difficulty than others, but as soon as they started to put their mime together, the rest ran smoothly. I was surprised by the participants’ creativity and cleverness in portraying some of the most difficult processes in our society, such as right to vote, and making it simple and easily understandable to the audience. During the roleplay, everybody managed to guess what each performance was about. Participants went to some lengths using props to make their performances visually attractive or music to create a more dramatic effect.  It was great to watch it and made a human rights learning experience fun.

Afterwards, we tried to cool down by sitting down in a circle and discussing the activity and human rights. It was great fun to listen what perception participants had about human rights, and for my taste it could have lasted forever.

However all good things come to an end, and I felt that the perfect way to end our workshop was a screening of a video about Human Rights History. The video put the human rights concept in historic perspective and made people realize that even though the idea of human rights underlines the fact that human rights are our birthright, in reality they could be little more than words on a paper. We have to fight for human rights, nobody ever gave them willingly. History shows that it took tremendous human suffering, self-sacrifice, dedication and hard work of our precedents so that we could enjoy the human rights that today we take for granted. Of course, there are still many rights that are denied to us, but who else will realize them if not us?


LGL is carrying out the 10-month project “Heading Towards Visibility and Equality” under the Erasmus+ program EVS (European Voluntary Service).