Most mornings in my home go something like this: wake up too early to the sound of smartphone alarm clock, rub eyes and check social media feeds and email, crawl back under covers due to overwhelming feelings of despair and frustration, get out of bed and push away the helplessness to work/mom/live.
The words HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN RIGHTS scroll through my head in big bold letters, like the Morgan Stanley scroll bar in Times Square in New York City. I know I’m not alone, there are a great many of us feeling that same frustration and despair. And guilt. And discomfort. The list goes on because it is truly a confusing time in history.
Finding Inspiration in the Midst of Confusion
On the flip side of that social media despair, has been a little inspiration. People creating and sharing events. Eyes being opened. The sleeping being awakened. And one really interesting sidebar is that many of us have become diligent about sourcing our media consumption. Digging deeper and questioning more — if there was ever a silver lining.
But still, despite those flickers of motivation, I have asked myself many times how I, as a mother, writer, wife, Canadian, could do something to stand up for what I believe in. How could I champion for the things that matter to me? How do I even know where to start or what those things are?
I have made some progress, but I don’t have all the answers and am barely scratching the surface. I’m still learning. But I thought of someone who might. Claire Mahon is an International Human Rights lawyer, based in Geneva, Switzerland. She has worked for Amnesty International, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among many others. No one seemed better equipped to answer my questions than Claire, who I’ve become friendly with over the years on Facebook through a mutual friend.
Claire launched the Global Human Rights Group for people like me and you – people who want to sift through their frustrations and take action but aren’t sure where to begin. She recently launched her first online course that I signed up for (I think I was first in line!). When I reached out to Claire for a few thoughts, she had so much incredible information that she was kind enough to grant me an interview.
Tips for Taking Action
I asked Claire what her top tips are for taking action (not limited to human rights but in any form), and she was kind enough to share a brief overview of how to know what you’re passionate about changing, and how to take action.
1. Take Cues from your Feelings
When you’re struck with a case of overwhelm, or don’t know where to start, Claire says to narrow your focus on what really stirs your emotions. “It becomes easier to find local organizations that you can get involved in, or identify the causes you are going to prioritize donating to, or what you’re going to share on your Facebook feed. Because trying to do it all, trying to care for everything and everyone in a truly active way, is a sure-fire way to guarantee burnout. And then we can’t do anything!”
2. Educate, Inform, Communicate, Listen
Claire says to educate yourself and not to shy away from confrontation when it’s the right thing to do. “Work to have those difficult conversations with your family and friends, in your own communities, and to be an amplifier for the info to others.” She makes an interesting point about listening, that challenges the narrative we often hear. “…many people think they are called to be a voice for the voiceless but the reality is people are only voiceless because we are not listening and not allowing them (or helping them) get access to the platforms where they can speak for themselves.”
3. Take Action
Claire says there are a variety of ways to take action which includes influencing decision makers and power-players, so it’s key to know who they are. “Are they governments, are the companies, are they heads of families, school teachers, etc.? How to influence them then depends on who we’ve identified… If it’s companies, economic pressure (through buying fewer products and services from companies who support violations of human rights, or buying more from companies that are good at diversity, etc…). If it’s politicians, we have power as their constituents and we need to use that.” Claire also points out that there are other ways to take action, such as financial, or marching, or volunteering locally.
4. Lead by Example
One final tip Claire has is to lead by example. She says, “Making sure we “live” our values in our day-to-day lives. Read books about diversity and feminism and religious differences to our children. Make management decisions or decisions about suppliers that align with the way we want the world to be. And treat ourselves with the same respect and human dignity we want others to treat us with — rest when we need to and don’t be ashamed of this, eat well but not obsessively or from a place of deprivation; laugh and have fun with people we love. Show love and compassion in our daily lives.”
I hope you find these tips are helpful! If you have anything to add please share below.
If you’re interested in learning more about Claire’s work, or the course, How to Stand Up for Human Rights in the New Dystopian Era, you can learn more on the Global Human Rights Group website.