UCSB’s third biannual Human Rights Week kicked off yesterday with a number of events aiming to highlight and discuss domestic and international human rights issues.

The week-long series — hosted by various cultural and international campus organizations through the Associated Students Human Rights Board — will feature several discussions and film screenings until Saturday. Today’s events include a Skype dialogue with Rwandan genocide victims, a discussion on Disney’s perpetuation of stereotypes and cultural norms and a film screening about the controversial practice of female genital mutilation.

According to Co-Chair of Womyn’s Commission Sophia Armen, a second-year political science major, the week provides a rare opportunity for students from various backgrounds campus-wide to unite for common moral causes.

“It’s always an amazing collaborative process to have so many different groups come together,” Armen said. “It’s a week that focuses on humanity — the common element within all of us.”

Human Rights Week Events Coordinator Jen Houston, a fourth-year global studies major, said today’s Skype dialogue with Rwandan genocide victims at 10 a.m. in the MultiCultural Center Meeting Room will provide a unique opportunity to intimately converse with survivors.

“It’s an absolutely amazing opportunity to utilize the technology we have,” Houston said. “With speaking to one of them, there’s a deeper connection and deeper understanding of what they’re really going through.”

Houston said other events will also take more innovative approaches, such as an interactive tunnel presented by the Persian Student Group on the Student Resource Building lawn that will feature video and photography of Iranian revolution protests.

Chair of the female genital mutilation film screening Manda LaPorte, a third-year global studies major, said the documentary “Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter” focuses on one woman’s struggle to avoid deportation from the United States back to her native country of Mali, where her two-year old daughter would have to undergo FGM.

“Her daughter will more than likely have to undergo the mutilation practice if they’re deported back to Africa,” LaPorte said. “What I hope comes from the film is that students realize the trauma that comes with FGM and how close it hits home, since Mrs. Goundo is living in the United States.”

International student Kohei Takami, a mechanical engineering major, said two events hosted by the Japanese Student Association on Thursday — including a panel discussion in the MCC theater at 3 p.m. — will focus on the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in March.

“What we’re going to do is have a panel discussion about power plants,” Takami said. “We’re also going to have a professor talk about nuclear energy and its serious effects.”

As a result of the earthquake, the region suffered radioactive fallout from damage to nuclear reactors. Takami said one student from the discussion plans to make a banner in tribute to Japan and collect similar banners from other universities to make a single banner, which will be taken to the Fukushima region. For a complete list of events, visit the weeklong event’s Facebook page, ‘Human Rights Week, Spring 2011.’