Measuring impact of Human Rights Education on youth

Linked with Felisa Tibbitts – USA.

See: Youth for Human Rights: A long-term training programme for young human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa;
The Arab Institute for Human Rights AIHR (in arab);
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies CIHRS (in arab).

The Youth for Human Rights long-term training programme for young human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa is generously funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute’s Middle East & North Africa Initiative.

Received by mail:

From: Felisa Tibbitts
Date: 11/09/2008

Dear Colleagues, I am gratified by the rich and provocative comments that have been made on the listserv over the last few months in relation to the question of how to measure the impact of human rights education on youth. Certainly, we have identified several areas worthy of further exploration. In this message, following the synthesis of the discussion by the moderators earlier today, I would like to highlight some conclusions that I have personally drawn from our extended conversation.

The first conclusion that I have drawn is our responsibility as human rights educators to incorporate human rights values into our research and evaluation processes. Let us strive to actively involve our subjects in our work in ways that are genuinely participatory and even empowering. Practically speaking, this means consulting with them whenever possible on the design of our studies, including the instruments and indicators that we use. The involvement of our subjects, or rights-holders, should extend to all phases of our work.

Methodologically speaking, within the research field we already have participatory and action research approaches established. We might familiarize ourselves with these approaches and make use of then whenever possible.

Our discussion also touched upon indicators, but this discussion is unfinished. It seems that we are already familiar with the domains of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in relation to human rights education (and some of us have strong preferences for focusing on behavioral outcomes). Each of us is aware of the need to prioritize specific outcomes and potential measurements that relate to our specific program goals. These goals, and our associated research, should aim to address the larger goals for human rights education. I find this idea to be challenging, and also quite subtle. For example, if our programs do not explicitly but rather implicitly want children to realize that their behavior can facilitate or deny the rights of others, how shall we study this?

I continue to believe that we would all benefit from being able to review research designs and instruments used out in the human rights education field, even if we should have a difference of opinion concerning approach or methodology. This is why I originally shared the RRR study from Hampshire County. I encourage us to share sample indicators and designs. We will learn from this interchange.

Finally our conversation led us back to the nature of human rights education programming itself. Two of the postings left lasting questions on my mind, ones that I think have implications not only for what we try to measure but what we might be trying to accomplish in the first place. Perhaps we can continue this discussion by considering the following questions:

- How do we find the balance in our programming between promoting personal empowerment and reinforcing the responsibility to protect and promote the rights of others?

- If we do not want the human rights framework to be imposed upon others, how might we develop programs that allow learners to recognize and link human rights values with their own internal senses of empathy and justice?

A heartfelt thanks to listserv members once again for engaging in such an interesting interchange. I look forward to additional enlightening conversations.

Warm wishes, Felisa Tibbitts, Director, Human Rights Education Associates HREA – US office, PO Box 382396, Cambridge, MA 02238, USA; Visiting address: 97 Lowell Road, Concord, MA 01742, (tel) +1 978 341 0200, (fax) +1 978 341 0201, e-mail, and the Website.

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