Who We Are
Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (STF), launched in 1999, is a youth leadership-training program that brings together high school students and educators and empowers them to advocate for human rights issues, especially the rights of children.
Mission Statement: Implementing HRW’s mission to defend human rights, STF helps youth build a foundation for human rights, raises awareness about children’s rights violations, and develops young leaders and advocates to become instrumental voices for social justice around the world.
What We Do
“I learned so much about the world from STF, to always strive to be a better person, and to uphold my beliefs. I know that in the future, I will fight for human rights both out in the world and in my own community. This experience is something I will never forget, and I look forward to bringing what I’ve learned to the next stage of my life.”
Gowri VadmalSTF Alumni 2020
“Thanks to STF, I became aware of social justice issues and made me realize how essential advocacy is to accomplish and effect changes.”
Chris CapronSTF Alumni 2011
“As a high schooler it is very difficult to feel like you can make a difference. You are old enough to have opinions and motivation to make change, but oftentimes people underestimate your abilities and write your efforts off. This is why STF is so special. STF gives high schoolers the opportunity to really make change.”
Emma DezarnSTF Alumni 2018
“STF helped me find a strength I didn’t know I had in myself to stand as a role model and actively engage the world around me.”
Kanchan Wali-RichardsonSTF Alumni 2008
How We Work
Every year, STF works with students and teachers in public and private schools to reach out to over 34,000 students across California, Illinois and New Jersey. STF participants develop leadership skills, learn to defend and protect global human rights and become skilled communicators on behalf of children’s rights.
Each campus establishes core leadership teams, including a teacher advisor, that work closely with the STF team to learn about human rights, prepare weekly agendas, lead meetings, engage members, plan events and advocacy on campus, work with school faculty, and reach out beyond their school communities.
The STF team facilitates weekly virtual meetings with student leaders from different schools. The students collaborate on ways to implement the STF annual campaign at each campus and engage students, teachers, and the community in their advocacy. Students share advice, challenges, and learn from one another how to be more effective human rights activists in their respective spheres of influence.
Human Rights Campaigns
STF staff guide and mentor STF members to implement a shared human rights advocacy campaign across campuses. Each campaign is developed in coordination with Human Rights Watch staff and researchers. Students have tangibly supported HRW’s advocacy efforts in numerous campaigns including:
- Red Hand/Child Soldiers Campaign
- Safe Schools Declaration
- Ending child labor in U.S. tobacco fields
- Ending Juvenile Life Without Parole in California
- Transitioning our schools and districts to 100% renewable energy
- Meetings with U.S. Congressional Representatives and Consul Generals
- See a complete list of past STF human rights campaigns and toolkits
STF members learn about the campaign themes by attending three annual STF workshops, plus weekly chapter meetings. They are then able to “educate to advocate” by hosting guest speakers, film screenings, tabling events, all-school assemblies, faculty and classroom presentations, art exhibits and experience tents. Every campaign features an advocacy strategy. Actions range from raising human rights awareness of public officials and international diplomats to campaigning for human rights policies in classrooms, school districts and City Councils.
Through these campaigns, STF engages diverse youth who join our program because they care deeply about human rights issues. STF students become life-long human rights advocates while growing in their ability to collaborate with a diverse group of peers. Many alumni report that their participation in STF has compelled them to prioritize human rights in their careers in the public, private and government sectors.