Thousands of students create messages of solidarity in Slovenia

By Andrea Garcia Giribet

In 2018, Slovenian students wrote or drew over 10,000 solidarity messages for the Write for Rights campaign

“I like to help people in need. I would be very happy if someone would help me if I was in the same situation that the people we are writing for are in”. This is what a pupil from Šempeter v Savinjski dolini Elementary School says when asked about participating in Write for Rights. He is one of over 7,000 students who took part in the campaign last year with one goal: helping victims of human rights violations.

In Slovenia, the goal of introducing the Write for Rights (W4R) campaign into schools is to “raise awareness about human rights, human rights violations and Human Rights Defenders” explains Simona Podobnikar, Head of Human Rights Education in Slovenia, “and also to educate and empower participants”. Slovenian students all have a basic understanding of human rights as part of mandatory education, “but not much more” acknowledges Podobnikar. “Many teachers use the W4R activities as an opportunity to teach more about human rights issues,” she says.

hand-written message on a yellow paper written by a student in Slovenia as part of the Write for Rights campaign hand-written message on a yellow paper written by a student in Slovenia as part of the Write for Rights campaign
hand-written message of solidarity written as part of the Write for Rights campaign by a student in Slovenia

The Write for Rights campaign has been largely successful in the country thanks to the implementation of the campaign into schools through human rights education. As teachers, administration, school clubs and students actively participate in the campaign across the country, students are able to not only experience first-hand the power their words have but also enable them to take part in human rights education in a very tangible way. The result is thousands of students from across the country taking part in and using their creativity to make an impact on the lives of human rights defenders across the globe.

“I participated […] for the 4th time this year. I think it’s noble that we can help someone with just our words”, says another student, “we keep asking the teacher every year after we finish [the campaign] if anybody got out. We are very happy when it happens”.

Over 7,000 students from 63 schools all over the country participated in the W4R campaign in 2018, together creating over 10,000 solidarity messages. Their ages range from 12 to 19 and they can take part in any way they want: writing, drawing, emailing or even just signing petitions. “We decorated the whole classroom at our journalism class with posters and thoughts,” says a student from the Ivan Kavčič Elementary School.

hand-drawn image of a girl's hands up, with her shadow looking like she is shackled by the wrists. Created as part of the Write for Rights campaign by a student in Slovenia hand-drawn image of a girl's hands up, with her shadow looking like she is shackled by the wrists. Created as part of the Write for Rights campaign by a student in Slovenia
Hand drawn image created as part of the Write for Rights campaign by a student in Slovenia

The experience is both educational and rewarding for the students, who look forward to it every year. “It’s nice to see kids look around and talk about other people’s problems, not just their own,” says one teacher, “they have the motivation to help others and this teaches them to be compassionate”.

Another teacher explains the importance the timing of the W4R campaign has for them: “We usually write for rights just before Christmas, which often ends up being a holiday of materialism and consumerism instead of being a special time for compassion”. They add “we hope that we will hear good news about the cases of the 5 female human rights advocates that we were writing for this year very soon”.