RAISING HUMAN RIGHTS AWARENESS IN INDIA
19 November 2010
Within hours of putting up its new website in June, the Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) headquarters in Los Angeles received 1,000 requests from India for more information. After that the message went viral. Those receiving free YHRI information or education kits began scores of grassroots activities—delivering human rights educational lectures, seminars and workshops to audiences in literally all corners of the nation.
As just one example, Manoj Katiyar, director of a non-profit educational organization the Jyoti Foundation in Lucknow, India, sent the following message to YHRI executives: “Let’s put our hands together to change the world.”
Since then, Katiyar has used the materials from the YHRI information kit to hold numerous human rights workshops for youth. Following this, the Lucknow Press Club broadly publicized the Jyoti Foundation’s calendar of YHRI activities.
First on the agenda was a training program at Duke Institute in Lucknow where—when it came to light that most of the program attendees were not aware of their rights—there was an immediate demand for YHRI educational materials. A majority of those attendees also organized themselves into a YHRI group and vowed to provide YHRI materials for use in promoting human rights in the remainder of Lucknow’s schools and colleges. Their first activity was a petition-signing campaign to raise awareness of human rights throughout their city of more than 5 million people.
From these first activities, the message of human rights has continued to reverberate across the land. There are currently 167 Youth for Human Rights groups and their affiliates doing regular petition drives and seminars throughout the country, with new groups forming every month. The members of these groups have taken to heart what the Speaker of the Delhi Legislative Assembly Prem Singh once said to YHRI: “There is a grave need to spread awareness about human rights among the younger generation, as a tool to cultivate defenses against oppression and exploitation.” In a country containing one-sixth of the world’s population, YHRI members know that the job of spreading human rights awareness has just begun.