In the world’s most eager exporter of democracy, justice is as remote for some as it is for people living in the most troubled parts of the world.
The UNIS Human Rights Project is an initiative at the United Nations International School in New York City that integrates the values of human dignity and justice into teaching and learning. The program emerged out of a desire to learn from and support local community organizations in their efforts to bring about social justice. Established in 2014 in partnership with PROOF: Media for Social Justice, we are a free human rights education program dedicated to equipping high school students with skills in photojournalism and storytelling to advocate for human rights. Through our photography, journalism, oral history and theatre programs, students investigate, document, organize, educate and advocate for policy changes.
In an intensive summer institute, students use New York City as their classroom to investigate one specific human rights issue.
They meet with activists, lawyers, academics and policy experts from a variety of human rights organizations.
Most importantly, they hear the personal stories of those who have been most affected by social injustices and learn about their work to bring about change.
Students train with photographers, journalists and theatre experts. They learn how to use photojournalism and theatre to document and raise awareness of human rights violations. They record and transcribe all of the stories and interviews and create a photo exhibit, online journalism project, and devised theatre piece.
The exhibits are created in collaboration with PROOF: Media for Social Justice and are displayed in high schools, universities, photo festivals and at various locations throughout the country.
ORGANIZE, EDUCATE AND ADVOCATE
In the final component of the project, students organize events to raise awareness of the issue and take action to change unjust policies.
UNIS hosts an annual symposium featuring student work, presentations, workshops, guest speakers and a devised theatre performance. New Yorkers interviewed by the students come to see their photos, view their stories being performed and share with the audience.
Students also have the opportunity to volunteer and do internships with local organizations working to change laws and policies.