We met with Kyle Knight, the coordinator in the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. Kyle shared some information about the organization and ways you can help the cause. Check out the exclusive interview below!
What can our followers do to help the cause?
There are community advocacy and action opportunities all around us. Some are even easy to access on the internet. For example, Human Rights Watch has created this online action alert that lets you help end dangerous child labor in US agriculture: www.hrw.org/support-care.
What exactly do you do? What’s your role in your organization?
I am the coordinator in the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. I manage all of the projects of the division within the organization, assist with research and drafting of documents and reports, and handle the general operations of the division. I work closely with the eight brilliant and talented research and advocacy colleagues in the Children’s Rights Division to end human rights abuses against children around the world.
How did you get involved in Human Rights? How young were you when you had your first experience with it?
When I was in kindergarten, I organized a parade to celebrate Earth Day. While that wasn’t directly connected to human rights, early involvement in activism showed me that my passions were in fighting for justice. I volunteered for some human rights groups while I was studying in college, and did some research related to the rights of children with disabilities. Then I was lucky to get a job at Human Rights Watch, where I’m surrounded by passionate and brilliant activists at work all day.
What are some of the most important human rights violations that need to be corrected now?
It’s difficult to rank human rights issues in terms of importance. What is most important is that people all over the world are positioned to fight for progressively better rights, and that the international community helps put them in that position through intense advocacy.
How can we ensure that the voices of the oppressed are heard?
One way to ensure that the voices of the oppressed are heard is to share information produced by human rights organizations among our friends, families, and communities. The internet makes this easy. For example, Human Rights Watch regularly posts videos on youtube that feature victims telling their stories. You can see one about the abuses suffered by child farmworkers in the US here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfEtO00DSvI
How is Human Rights Watch different from the other Human Rights organizations?
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. Human Rights Watch operates independently of any government; we raise money from foundations and private donors only. Our work appears regularly in the media, and is considered a valuable part of discussions about policy making and the enforcement of laws around the world.
We read about some of your success stories in dealing with human rights violations in different parts of the world. After progress is made, how do you follow up? How do you ensure that the violations do not occur again?
For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world. We employ researchers and advocates who closely monitor a wide variety of situations around the world. We also work closely with local NGOs and activists to make sure the change we seek is substantial and long-lasting.
What is your role with groups like the United Nations, African Union, European Union, etc?
Human Rights Watch works closely with international bodies to encourage them to take action to end human rights abuses around the world. We supply these international bodies with our research documents and make recommendations for their actions, as well as the actions we wish to see their constituents take.
How does your organization get the facts about human rights violations? Are your sources hiding in secret? Do you contract freelance reporters?
Human Rights Watch is world-renowned for its rigorous, objective research. We employ researchers all over the world who work closely with local NGOs, journalists, and government officials to conduct their research. Much of our research involves gathering testimony from victims and witnesses of human rights abuses. We protect our sources by using sensitive security measures both on-site and in our publications.
What can a young person do to change human rights if they do not have money to spare, a car, or an adult around?
Writing letters to people in powerful positions, urging them to protect human rights is one way to get involved. Sending emails or making phone calls also helps. In addition to these direct actions, accessing documents about human rights and sharing them within your community is a way to raise general awareness about human rights abuses. Of course, the first step in all of this activism is to get informed: read human rights documents from organizations such as Human Rights Watch to learn about the issues, the people affected, and how change can happen.
Can you think of an experience or statistic that gives you hope that the world will become a better place?
When I was conducting research about the experiences of children with disabilities in Nepal, I met a tiny boy named Hari. He had been abandoned by his parents just a few months before I met him. Hari could not walk or talk; he had little muscle structure at all. Two years later, during another research trip to Nepal, I saw Hari again. He could walk, and say some words, and he was enrolled in school for the coming year - for the first time in his life. The main thing that made a difference in Hari’s life was that the people who took him in loved and cared for him. They believed that despite his disability, he deserved to be cared for, and had the right to receive medical attention and a good education. They paid attention to him, and got him access to the services that he needed to improve. It is simple stories like this that reassure me that the world is becoming a better place, and inspire me to work harder to make my small contribution to that improvement.