Student Leadership 101: Advocating for Human Rights

Posted by Rebecca Denyer on July 20, 2017

A YU Perspective | Goings-On around York | York & U | York Community

Craig Kielburger, a York University alumnus and co-founder of the WE organization, once said: “It’s easier to be ignorant and say ‘I don’t know about the problem.’ But once you know… you have a responsibility to do something. There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable”.

This quotation is inspiring, but it can be challenging to make time for volunteering outside of your studies. Post secondary education is one of the busiest times in your life, but it is also filled with exciting opportunities for personal growth.

My education inspired my lifelong passion for human rights advocacy. The following tips for getting involved with leadership and human rights activism on campus are based on my own experience as a York University student. YorkU students have a powerful voice that we can use to encourage our communities to come together and protect equal rights for all. Your education isn’t an obstacle to your involvement, but the first step to becoming an activist! Read on, get involved, and make an impact on the YorkU community and in the world!

Photo by Rebecca Denyer
Blogger Rebecca Denyer supporting Amnesty International at YorkU.

Getting Involved with Human Rights Activism

1. Join a Student Club or Social Justice Organization

You can learn about global human rights right here on campus by joining clubs focused on social justice. YorkU has many student-organized clubs that educate students, implement policy change and participate in direct activism. You can find a directory of all clubs and organizations at YorkU by using the website YUConnect. This site also allows you to track your involvement hours, discover student events on campus and chat with student groups. From Amnesty International at York to Because I am a Girl, there is a YorkU club that aligns with your beliefs. And if not, start your own! Gather your friends to organize a charity event, host a seminar featuring a knowledgeable activist or hold a screening of a human rights documentary.

Image by Rebecca Denyer
YUConnect Website

2. Stay Connected Via Social Media

Social and political awareness is crucial to activism. To stay informed, you should read a variety of trusted news sources. Although social media is a good way to gain real-time updates with basic information on world events, make sure to research the story for accuracy and to learn how you can get involved.

If you are a Facebook user, following local social movements online provides you with event and volunteer updates. You can also connect with other activists within the Toronto region. It may not seem like it, but engaging people in discussions about social issues is a powerful form of activism. Listening to other perspectives will inform your own and create inclusive spaces to share ideas.

Image by Rebecca Denyer
Amnesty International at York Poster

3. Education is Key: Take social justice courses!

York University offers a variety of social justice courses across different departments. If you are interested in declaring Human Rights & Equity Studies as your major or minor, you may want to take a look at the Department of Equity Studies website. Even if it’s not your major, you can still enroll in a Human Rights & Equity Studies course towards your general education requirements and to provide you with an expanded worldview. For example, you might enroll in “POLS3255: Human Rights in Global Economy” or “GEOG3040: Urban Environmental Justice” provided you have the prerequisites.

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YorkU Lecture

Does your program offer courses specifically focused on human rights and social justice? Many undergraduate programs do, including Political Science, Humanities, Law and Social Sciences. Take a look at YorkU’s course search website and get excited about all of the awesome topics being taught and discussed on campus. Once you have learned more about the history of contemporary social issues, you can put your knowledge into practice by getting involved on campus!

Image by Rebecca Denyer
Get involved on campus!

A university education is an incredible, life-altering experience. As a YorkU student, you have access to world-class learning facilities, brilliant professors and leadership opportunities that can change your life. In turn, these resources can prepare you to change lives around the world.

How do you use your education to make a difference? Tweet us your thoughts @yorkustudents !

Rebecca Denyer
Rebecca Denyer

Rebecca Denyer is a fourth year Political Science and Communications Studies double-major at York University. She lives on coffee and Broadway soundtracks and is often found strolling the aisles of second-hand bookstores.

See other posts by Rebecca Denyer

  • Sarah

    York University is doing a great job in educating students about social justice. But once this students graduates I don’t see much changes in the community made by graduates who were involved in social justice in school.Students working in clubs should be because they love social justice,and members surely joining clubs to learn more about social justice is great.But I am aware some clubs in YU have leaders who don’t care about social justice yet they have executives positions ,and there is so much racial discrimination within the clubs ,isn’t that social justice,should that be happening at all.As a vice president of the club, how do you make sure the executives are people who have a passion for social justice and not there for the wrong reasons to build their resumes?

    • Lauren Sutherland
      Lauren Sutherland

      Hi Sarah! Thank you for reaching out to us– it is always great to hear from engaged students like yourself. We brought your concerns to Ross McMillan, Director, Student Engagement & First Year Experience at YorkU to ensure that your concerns are heard and supported by YorkU’s resources. I’d encourage you to bring any issues of discrimination you encounter to the attention of York’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion.

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