Human Rights Day Toolkit

Welcome! This page is designed to empower students and teachers to educate their communities about Human Rights Day. Here you will find background information, basic human rights vocabulary, and event planning ideas. Contact the STF Team if you have any questions.

What is Human Rights Day?

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document, which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world. (United Nations).

Read a simplified version of the UDHR here.

Photo by Patricia Williams

What are Human Rights?

What are human rights? By Human Rights Watch (Click to watch, 2:04)

Important Vocabulary

Human Rights

Rights we have simply because we exist as human beings – they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty. These rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible and interdependent. (OHCHR)


Applicable to or common to all members of a group or set. Relate equally to all human beings simply because we are born human. (OHCHR)


Rights should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law. (OHCHR)

Interdependent and Indivisible

One set of rights cannot be enjoyed fully without the other. For example, making progress in civil and political rights makes it easier to exercise economic, social and cultural rights. (OHCHR)

Activities for Human Rights Day

Use this list of ideas to help you brainstorm an activity or an event to do on your campus to educate students about human rights.

  • Check out STF’s list of ideas for activities/events based on how much time you have to plan. Whether you have a day, a week, or a month, you can plan something to honor Human Rights Day.
  • Explore HRW’s Human Rights 101 Video Series. Choose a video (or a few) to watch then have a discussion about the rights explained in that video. See a complete list below.
  • Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Host a teach-in, meeting, or lunch event inviting students to read the UDHR out loud together. Then discuss which rights are most important to each of you and why.
  • Share a Human Rights Lesson Plan With Your Teacher. View options below.
  • Take Your School’s Human Rights Temperature. Using this tool, explore with students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders how well your school upholds human rights. Use the results as a baseline for a conversation about what changes might need to be made.
  • Why Learn About Human Rights? Host a teach-in, meeting, or lunch event explaining why students should learn about human rights. Watch this video from HRW’s Human Rights 101 Video Series, then have a discussion.
Photo by Pam Bruns

HRW’s Human Rights 101 Video Series

HRW launched the Human Rights 101 Video Series to share resources with teachers, students, and the general public in an effort to expand basic human rights education. Each video highlights a human rights topic and is about two minutes long. The videos can be shown individually or as a set.

Human Rights Lesson Plans

Teach With Movies: Music as a Human Right: Dr. Sarmast’s Music School

Grades: 9-12

Examines the banning of music in Afghanistan using film clips and the film Dr. Sarmast’s Music School. With resources and writing prompts.

Radical Math:  A Guide for Integrating Social Justice into Math Curriculum

Grades: 6-12

A definition of “social justice math”, discussion of its advantages and drawbacks, and ways to integrate it into mathematics curriculum.

Pulitzer Center: Does Everyone Really Have the Right to Access Water?

Grades: 9-12

Explores the effect of the world’s population explosion on access to water. Aligned to Common Core standards for cross-curricular use.

Facing History and Ourselves: Mini Unit on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Grades: 6-12

Teaches the origins of the first human rights international document and includes a summative assessment.

Review additional human rights lesson plans from HRE USA.

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