This year, on December 10th the United Nations is asking everyone to “stand up for someone’s rights!” to help celebrate Human Rights Day. This ‘someone’ can be a family member, a friend, a stranger, or simply yourself. We encourage everyone to stand up, speak out, and take action to defend human rights around the world. 

What's to celebrate?

Human Rights Day celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has been celebrated each year since the declaration’s adoption in 1948. Its creation was championed by Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, who led a committee that drafted a declaration on what rights everyone in the world should have. This declaration has now been signed by all of the 192 members of the United Nations.

Source: The Pixel Project

Source: The Pixel Project

What are Human Rights?

The discussion around ‘what your human rights are’ is divisive, long-winded and ever changing.

However, the UN did their best to create a list of universally accepted human rights. With the key point being that these human rights are inalienable to being human they are not a privilege and cannot be revoked. Having these fundamental rights is what separates humans from other beings and when we take away someone’s human rights we are dehumanising them.

In theory, these rights are not dependent on your gender, race, sexuality,  disabilities, religious cultural or political beliefs or nationality. However, in practice, these factors can be grounds for discrimination, diminishing the realisation of our rights. As part of these inalienable rights, every human is entitled to:

  • Being viewed as equal before the law and have the right to a fair trial.
  • Having the right to life, liberty and security.
  • Not being entered into slavery or servitude and cannot be subjected into torture, cruel or inhuman or degrading acts.
  • Not being arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled. You also have the right to seek asylum in any country.
  • The right to a nationality and to move freely within each State and to leave and return each State.
  • The right to have a family and for consenting adults (non-gender specific) to be married.
  • The right to own property and to have an adequate standard of living.
  • The right to free thought and religion. Also the right to change religion.
  • To have freedom of opinion and to be able to participate in peaceful assembly.
  • The right to take part in government and to have access to genuine elections.
  • The right to work and the right to receive equal pay for equal work and the right to education.
Girls at school in Lamahi district copy
Human Rights Day banner

How to celebrate Human Rights

Speak out: Which of the above rights did you connect with most? Voice it! One of the biggest challenges with human rights is that people are not aware when their rights are not being fulfilled.  Make your voice count by writing to your local paper and tell them how you feel – chances are, someone else is wanting to say the exact same thing!

Highlight the pay gap: It’s a human right that people are paid an equal wage for equal work, but we know all too well that women are paid 20% less than men on average. Because of this injustice, women in Iceland have been leaving work at 2.38pm to highlight the difference. Talk to your boss and see if they would support the women in your office to leave early!

Host an International Morning Tea: Celebrate your differences through food (is there a better way?!) This is a great way to have people talk about their different experiences with human rights in a safe space.

Host a film screening: Watching a documentary is a great way to open a discussion and to educate yourself as well as others. Some recent human rights documentaries worth watching: I am Malala, Chasing Asylum, Girl Rising, Before the Flood.

Write to your local MP: Taking part in government is a human right. Our members of parliament rely on people within the community in order to stay in their positions, meaning that they are answerable to the community. So why not say something! The UN is asking us to stand up for someone’s rights, who better to stand up to than your local member who is reliant on your vote? You can find your local Member here.

Start Volunteering: Don’t just celebrate your human rights for one day! Instead, volunteer for an organisation to create positive long term change. You can see volunteer positions in Australia here.

These things may seem small, but in the words of the United Nations High Commissioner “Together, many small actions can provoke worldwide change”.


Read the full declaration or watch a great Ted Ed video that gives an overview of our human rights and the key areas of debate.

Feeling inspired?

Search our upcoming adventures calendar for challenges you can join to support human rights!