Career in Human Rights
Human rights are universal and fundamental rights regardless of man-made classifications like caste, creed, sex, nationality etc. Human rights are the basic rights of a person to survive in this world i.e. the right to healthy food, right to clean water, freedom of movement and speech and freedom from slavery and discrimination. Representing fundamental human values, these rights are eternal, inalienable and unvarying; all other rights flow from these. Although human rights is still in its budding stage in India and our HR record is not all that great (going by the controversial Amnesty International report) there are many avenues open for a student specialising in this field.
Career opportunities abound with social service organisations like old age homes and age care centres and NGOs working with the disabled, orphans, destitutes, refugees, mentally retarded and drug-addicts. Human rights professionals can also work with established NGOs who operate in the field of human rights and civil liberties in general. Such NGOs also function in the area of human rights activism, disaster and emergency relief, humanitarian assistance, child and bonded labour, displaced people, drug abuse, conflict resolution and public interest litigation, among others. International organisations and NGOs are constantly looking for people specialising in human rights. These include the United Nations, ILO, UNESCO, UNDCP, UNFPA, WHO, US Aid, Amnesty International, Oxfam, CRY, Red Cross, DANIDA, YMCA, YWCA and many more. Statutory government bodies and cooperatives in India like the national and state commissions (on women, children, human rights, labour, welfare, minorities, SC and ST), military, paramilitary and police departments, Panchayati Raj institutions, schools, colleges and universities including research bodies and centres of excellence, district rural development agencies and district urban development agencies, human rights consultancy organisations run by lawyers and legal experts are some other places to tap for career openings.
You can also work with correctional institutions working in the fields of juvenile delinquency and child abuse as well as in women reformation centres, prisons and homes for the homeless. While this is a relevant and interesting field, let me warn that a course in HR without a background in social work (MSW) or law (LLB) will not get you a job directly. Specialising in human rights or international law, after a basic law degree would offer better prospects. Plans are afoot to make human rights education mandatory in all schools and colleges in a few years. This would create a demand for human rights lecturers, teachers and counsellors in future.