I joined the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) a little over a month ago. I work in the Strategic Initiatives Programme and my job (that is constantly evolving) varies from writing and editing, to fact checking, to mass emailing. CHRI’s other programs include prison reform, police reform, and access to information. Ideally, this means my co-workers and I are saving the world. In practice, this means we are constantly discussing how to empower people filing right to information requests, people that interact with the police, or people in the prison system.
The official end of my work day is 5:30 PM. However, I live with three of my co-workers who are all human rights attorneys so the conversations concerning the police, prisons, or human rights abuses never cease.
You would think that the non-stop conversations concerning pellet guns in Kashmir, the official Government of India prison monitoring of only 13 of the 1,384 jails in India with a 70% undertial population, or CHRI’s advocacy concerning human rights deteriorations in the Maldives takes a toll on us – and you would be partially right but you would miss the resistance and resilience of my co-workers.
What I observe in the office and at home are people whose professional calling and personal passions intersect to shape dedicated, determined, and dynamic advocates. Of course, the office contains the full range of emotion from excitement when we’re published in newspapers and online to defeat when another child is killed in Kashmir. Within this range of emotion and experience my co-workers (and roommates) practice self-care in various forms that remind me to have fun. We have fun, not in a way that forgets that the injustices are many and the resources are few, but rather in a way that remembers that the justice system is broken but as individuals we should try our hardest to remain whole.
So how do we have fun? Some highlights:
Attending the BRICS Civil Forum: The most interesting session was on the first day in the afternoon on Human Security, Peace, and Justice. I was impressed with the representative of India who framed rights within the lens of Ashoka. I also asked a question to China, Russia, and India on the possibility to engage Muslims civil society organizations in separatist regions.
Office party marking for our Executive Director: The festivity blended the transition of our Executive Director to a less involved role and the celebration of her birthday. Rihanna’s song Work played approximately four times and while I am still learning the names of all of the decadent foods, suffice to say the almond rice pudding was heaven sent. The Executive Director of CHRI had a question and answer bowl and I heard her life story on how she was led to human rights advocacy and her reflection on her life’s work. I was moved to tears, in a fun and inspiring way.
Dancing in Hauz Khas Village: I started the night with a slice of pizza at NY Slice, danced with a cohort of co-workers at Social, had a mid-dance Chicken Fafa snack at Raasta, and then continued dancing.
Co-fellow visits: Nothing makes me happier than other AIF Co-fellows visiting. I had the pleasure of hearing in-person updates on public health projects in Bangalore, education in Sawai Madhopur, design in Lucknow, capacity building Kishangarh, and millet in Nainital.
The fun highlights could continue for pages and I will spare you the daily chronicle. I will continue to compile the list and re-visit the radicality of self-care and the importance of not losing one’s humanity to the challenges of human rights work in a future post.
- I’m using the word save in a colloquial sense but am consistently critically engaging with saviorism and keep this article as my framing point of reference: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/
- I am using the term that the Russian, Chinese, and Indian BRICS representatives employed. Feel free to email me for my personal views on self-determination vs. separationism.