How to observe and advocate for human rights year-round, not just in December

Across the world there are several groups fighting for their inalienable rights, for example the women’s rights movement in Iran. Right now people are standing up to so-called morality police and facing down authority to proclaim their equality.

Audre Lorde once said that “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” We at Spalding University stand in solidarity with advocates, allies, and accomplices across the world in supporting women’s rights and the dismantling of systemic patriarchy.

This is a reminder that the application of equal justice is is intentionally, and as global citizens have to act with purpose. So while this season is a great time to celebrate with loved ones, and spend time with family, it is also the perfect time to research a human rights movement you feel compelled to support.

December is a busy month. People around the world observe holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. It’s also a time to wrap up the year and make a New Year’s resolution. However, December is also an important month known for the Universal Month of Human Rights (UMHR).

The Universal Month of Human Rights acknowledges people of all different religions, cultures, races, and beliefs. We are people. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This month reminds us that human rights advocacy is ongoing and we can do better every day.

This month ties back to Spalding’s values in humbly accepting people of all walks of life.
The importance of UMHR aligns with our mission to promote peace and justice. Our community can educate and stand up for human rights one day at a time.

“It is absolutely clear that we need to regain the universality of human rights, the indivisibility of human rights, and we need to find a new energy that motivates young people around the world.”
-Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

We are here to help. We can all learn and grow together. In this post, we will discuss the importance of the Universal Month of Human Rights and how we can observe it all year-round, not just in December.

After World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) outlined our human rights. On December 10, 1948, they created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document defines our human rights that are to be protected universally. This was a huge milestone in history.

The first article states:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

The UDHR has paved the way for more than seventy human rights treaties. This milestone-document has been translated in more than 500 languages, and according to the UN is the most translated document in the world. Thus, making the UDHR and its message to protect freedom for all people accessible to many communities.

Every year on December 10, people around the world observe Human Rights Day. Beginning this year, the United Nations is promoting a year-long campaign to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2023. This theme is Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All and will focus on legacy, relevance, and activism.

This month–and beyond–we empower you to educate yourself and human rights. This is a learning process. Take a step and start local and help those who are hurting in your community.

Every year, the UN’s work to protect our human rights and to solve global issues has grown. The past few years have been “unprecedented times.” We have faced new and ongoing challenges such as the global pandemic, the killing of Breonna Taylor, AAPI hate crimes, and countless mass shootings–a sign that human rights advocacy is needed more than ever.

The most important thing to do is to find a common ground with those around us. Every human being is different and unique in their own way. We can learn to accept those differences and function together as a society.

  • Reread the Bill of Rights and think about what freedom means to you.
  • Volunteer at a local human rights organization
  • Ask your library staff to learn about new cultures.
  • Donate money or resources to human rights organizations.
  • Speak up for those who are hurting in your community.
  • Talk and learn from others who are different from you.
  • Watch documentaries or videos that support human rights.

Resources and Related Links

Am I Doing this Allyship Thing Right?: Spalding allyship resource

Anti-Racism Resources: a Spalding University library guide

Gender identity terminology: Spalding University gender identity terms used for self-identification

Human Rights Campaign: ways to get involved

Human Rights Day: Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All

Universal Human Rights Month: December 2022

NAACAP: take action

Spalding University Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Steven Kniffley, a faculty member in the School of Professional Psychology and the leader of Spalding’s Collective Care Center behavioral health specialty clinic for racial trauma, was recently honored by Louisville Business First as a 2021 Health Care Hero.

Dr. Kniffley, a clinical psychologist, was honored in the category of Health Equity Champion following a year in which he helped Collective Care Center fill a key role as the only behavioral health clinic in Louisville to specialize in treating race-based trauma and stress. The Collective Care Center is a division of Spalding’s Center for Behavioral Health, which is a training clinic for clinical psychology doctoral (PsyD) students in the School of Professional Psychology.

Kniffley is a scholar and frequent public speaker on matters of race and racial trauma and has given dozens of presentations, interviews and seminars on those topics.

Dr. Kniffley, who is a graduate of the Spalding PsyD that he now teaches in, was also recognized last year as a member of Louisville Business First’s Forty Under 40 list of outstanding young professionals in Louisville and received a MediStar Award from the Medical News for his work in treating and raising awareness for racial trauma.

He was appointed to the role of Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer in December. A member of President Tori Murden McClure’s senior leadership cabinet – known as the Operational Council – Kniffley plays a broad role in promoting diversity and inclusion in programs across campus. He is also the President-Elect of the Kentucky Psychological Association.

A list of all 2021 Louisville Business First Health Care Heroes can be found here (subscription link), and the honorees will profiled in the April 9 issue of the publication.