Associated Students Human Rights Board is holding 26 events this week focusing on a range of social issues including cultural identification, environment, sexuality, student debt and cross-categories of global welfare as part of its fourth annual Human Rights Week.

The week-long series kicked off yesterday with a LGBTQQIAA-friendly valentine making workshop for youth in foster care centers, a discussion of the “Grindr” craze and the gay community and a film screening on the discrimination Iranian women face at sporting events. The events will continue through Friday with a multitude of lectures, film screenings, demonstrations and workshops put on in collaboration with various campus organizations.

According to A.S. President Sophia Armen, a fourth-year global studies major and former co-chair of the Human Rights Board, the week sets a precedent for student activism on campus.

“The Human Rights Board is one of the greatest examples of the potential of student power,” Armen said. “This is exemplified by Human Rights Week, which is about showing that student rights are human rights. By looking critically at student issues, we create an opportunity to evaluate the types of problems faced by people all over the world.”

Human Rights Board Event Coordinator Katlen Abuata, a third-year Middle Eastern studies and political science double major, said the events will focus on human rights issues that are often overlooked by the mainstream media.

“Human Rights Week is definitely a politically charged event, but that’s because we’re bringing up certain issues that are usually just swept under the rug,” Abuata said. “We hardly ever talk about Palestine, and prejudice or racism and structural hierarchies that are making people suffer. And we should always talk about these issues, not just within one week.”

Some events include “Palestinian Culture Night” by Students for Justice in Palestine; “Effects of the Arab Uprisings” by the Muslim Student Association, Project Nur and the Arab Student Group; and “Caste Your Luck” by the new South Asian Student Association.

According to second-year political science major Anisha Ahuja, co-founder of the South Asian Student Association, while many of the events promote the prevalence of political and humanitarian crises, Human Rights Week also focuses on the personal and cultural components that can create bonds between students.

“We can’t get allies into our communities unless we teach people about what we stand for and who we are,” Ahuja said. “So I hope that people get inspired this week by what we teach.”

Other campus organizations sponsoring and holding events include environmental and social justice group Greeks Gone Green as well as the Womyn’s Commission, which will set up various events stationed by the Arbor, Student Resource Building Lawn and in front of the UCen.

Ahuja said she encourages students to attend “Womyn Unite, Take Back the Night,” an open-mic night acting as a venue for performers to speak out about global violence and discuss the realities of sexual assault.

“It’s really important that people come to this event and learn about how rape is affecting people in this area,” Ahuja said. “We’re trying to dispel a lot of myths about rape. So many people have this internalized view that rape is something that doesn’t affect them when it is definitely something that affects every single one of us.”

Events also consist of screenings and discussions with faculty members and leaders in the global human rights movement. Sociology professor and director Kum-Kum Bhavnani will present a screening of her film, “Nothing Like Chocolate,” on Thursday to promote discussion on the humanitarian violations of practices within the chocolate-making industry. Also on Thursday is a keynote speech, “Breaking Up the Tar Sands,” by sociology professor John Foran on the Keystone XL Pipeline controversy, a pollutant issue of tar-sands oil from Western Canada being deposited into the Texas Gulf Coast, as one of the week’s connections between environmentalism and human rights.

Foran said the association between human life and the welfare of the environment acts as an intrinsic component of the human rights discussion.

“The movement against Keystone is a very inspiring one on so many levels, and there will be people present who have been very active in the movement,” Foran said. “Everyone should come and hear their stories. Learn about how very ordinary people are standing up against this very powerful organization and doing a good job making our government hesitate before it makes a potentially fatal decision.”

Human Rights Week was originally organized as a bi-yearly event by the Human Rights Committee before the Human Rights Board took over after three attempts and considerable opposition. The Board, a branch founded by the A.S. Senate in January 2011, consists of human rights and social justice student groups that meet every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Middle Eastern Resource Center in the SRB.

For a complete listing of this week’s events, visit the Human Rights Board, UCSB Facebook page.


A version of this article appeared on page 3 of February 12th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.