Act it out
Show me what you mean by "human rights"!
Through this drama activity participants present their perceptions of the general concept of human rights.
- Related rights
• All human rights
• To explore the general idea or concept of human rights
• To develop intercultural and communication skills
• To develop co-operation and creativity
• Props: dressing-up clothes, toys, household items, etc.
• Paper and coloured markers, crayons
• Glue, string and card
- 10 DecemberHuman Rights Day
1. Explain that the purpose of the exercise is to come up with a dramatic representation of the general idea or concept of human rights that is understandable to people of different cultures, and who may speak different languages.
2. Explain that they will not be allowed to use words at all: this must be a mimed presentation. However, groups may make use of some of the materials or props, if they wish.
3. Ask people to get into small groups of between 4 and 6 people, and give each group a large sheet of paper and a set of crayons / markers.
4. Give the groups 10 minutes first to brainstorm all their ideas about human rights and then to identify two or three key ideas that they would like bring out most strongly in the mime.
5. Now give the groups 30 minutes to design and rehearse their mime. Explain that this must be a group effort and everyone should have a role in the production.
6. After 30 minutes are up, gather the groups together so that everyone can watch each other's performances.
7. Give a few minutes after each performance for feedback and discussion.
8. Ask the spectators to offer their interpretations of what they have just seen, and to try to identify the key ideas that the performance attempted to portray.
9. Then give the group itself a chance to explain briefly any points that did not emerge during the feedback. Repeat this for each of the performances.
Start by reviewing the activity itself and then go on to what they have learnt about human rights.
• How did people feel about this activity? Was it more or less difficult than they had first imagined? What were the most difficult aspects, or the most difficult things to represent?
• Did people learn anything new about human rights? Were they surprised that they actually knew more than they thought they did?
• Were there similarities and differences in the different presentations?
• Were there any fundamental disagreements over the idea of human rights within the group? How were these resolved?
• Based on the presentations, what do participants think are the most important and shared characteristics of human rights?
Unless people are entirely ignorant about the concept of human rights, it is more interesting to carry out this activity with a minimum of initial guidance from a facilitator. The main purpose is to draw out the impressions and knowledge about human rights that young people have already picked up in the course of their lives. It is worth emphasising this point to the group before they begin work, so that they do not feel constrained by not "knowing" exactly what human rights are.
Make it clear to participants that their task is to portray "human rights in general", rather than to illustrate one or more specific human rights. They may decide to take one specific right to bring out general points, but they should remember that they are attempting to show what is common to the different human rights. At the end of the session spectators should be able to (or begin to!) answer the question, "what are human rights?"
Do not let those who feel they are weak at acting fail to play an active part! Explain that there are plenty of roles for all, and that this must be something that the whole group feels happy about presenting. A few unusual props may bring the performances to life and help spark creative ideas – anything from saucepans, toy cars, hats, pillows, stones, a dustbin lid…
If you absolutely have to give the groups some hints in order to get them started, or at the end of the discussion, then you could get them thinking about the following:
• Human rights are the rights a person has simply because he or she is a human being; everyone has equal rights.
• Human rights are held by all persons equally, universally, and forever.
• Human rights are indivisible and interdependent: you cannot be denied a right because it is "less important" or "non-essential".
• Human rights are the basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity.
If participants find it difficult to mime, you can ask them to make collective "statues" instead. If the facilitator then takes photographs, you can make a collection of "collective images" and use them on another occasion as a starter for discussion or in an exhibition.
Alternatively, you can do this activity as a drawing exercise: get the groups to make a poster – again without using words – to express the main ideas about human rights. Then make an exhibition of the different posters.
If you want the groups to focus on certain concepts, you can cut out stages 3 and 4 of the instructions and give the small groups key words, for instance, equality, peace, poverty and solidarity. By giving different words to each small group you cover more concepts; by giving the same word to each small group you get an interesting diversity of expression.
The activity could also be carried out less as an introductory one, and more in order to organise and clarify thoughts once people have already worked through some of the other activities in the manual, or carried out their own research.
Look at plays or other literature with a human rights theme, and organise a dramatic performance for members of your local community.
To continue working on human rights in general, you could do the activity "Flowerpower". Alternatively, if the group would like to move on and look at some specific human rights, why not look at the Convention of the Rights of the Child through the activity "Children's Rights".
Another way to follow up the activity could be for participants to write short letters about what the concept of human rights means to them. See the activity "Dear friend" in the All Different – All Equal Education Pack. The aim of the letter writing would be to help participants to clarify their ideas, to provoke a reply and to develop a dialogue. Thus the letters could be sent to people within the group, or they could be used in an inter-school or inter-youth group exercise.
In DOmino, section 4, there are "Stories told by young people", which could be used as a basis for discussion about the relevance of human rights to every day life.
You could develop your mimes or make a whole group production and perform it to other people outside the group. If you did the poster-making or the "collective images" variation, make an exhibition of your posters or photographs. Both ideas could be used to celebrate Human Rights Day.
You could also video the performances of the mimes and post them on video sharing Internet sites.