“Our voices are getting quieter and quieter, no one is hearing what we’re saying as students,” explains Katlen Abu Ata, a third-year Middle Eastern studies and political science double major. Katlen is one of five members of the executive board of University of California, Santa Barbara’s Human Rights Board, a student organization devoted to human rights and social justice.
Human Rights week kicked off on Monday, Feb. 11, and will run through Friday, Feb. 15. The week of events brings together a sizable number of campus organizations to explore a wide variety of issues; the events promise meaningful discussions of race, feminism, imperialism, gun violence, human rights issues in the Middle East, and issues facing the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally (LGBTQQIAA) community, among other things.
Anisha Ahuja, a second-year political science and feminist studies double major and another executive member of the Human Rights Board, said that putting together Human Rights Week involved a heavy amount of organization, from contacting the contributing organizations to working together with them to develop programing to securing funding.
Organizations that are providing programming include the Muslim Student Association, Arab Student Group, Persian Student Group, Project Nur, Greeks Gone Green, Take Back the Night, AS Office of the President, Campus Democrats, Environmental Affairs Board, Black Student Union, Office of the External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, Office of the Internal Vice President of Statewide Affairs, South Asian Students Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, Womyn’s Commission, IDEAS, Black Quare, Voices of Planned Parenthood, and Student Lobby.
A full schedule of Human Rights week events can be found on Facebook, and also promises protests, teach-ins, sit-ins, and other displays of student activism designed to engage passersby.
“We just want to bring attention to all these issues and want to make people more active, get more inspired to do something about the issues facing our communities here and abroad,” said Ahuja. Abu Ata added, “In A.S. and on campus, we want to be the progressive voice on campus. [Human Rights Week] is an event that’s definitely political charged, you’re getting a wide variety of perspectives. We want to make sure students are informed.”
Human Rights Week will include displays of activist art and film screenings to help facilitate these discussions. Events are free for students and promise to both inform about the issues as well as provide students with the opportunity to make their voices heard.
“We want things like human rights week to not be so strange on campus. It would be nice if we started having these events and started having weeks dedicated to these things. We as students have the power to affect these issues, if we learn about it, we can affect change,” said Abu Ata, driving home Human Rights Week’s goal of informing and empowering UCSB students.