The Harmony of Psychology and Human Rights Training: A Trainer's Perspective

Hamza Abu-Shabana | MENA Junior Trainer

This perspective was contributed by Hamza Abu-Shabana, New Tactics in Human Rights MENA Junior Trainer.

The realm of human rights is one that constantly evolves as societies progress, face new challenges, and strive for equality and justice. As someone holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, I embarked on a unique journey as a trainer in the New Tactics in Human Rights program of the Center for Victims of Torture. This is a position where I have seen the principles and practices of psychology play a pivotal role. In this blog, I will delve into my view of the importance of applying psychology in human rights advocacy. And particularly in my role in training individuals dedicated to advocating for human rights.

Psychology and Human Rights: A Powerful Intersection

As a trainer in the New Tactics in Human Rights program, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of incorporating psychological principles into our trainings.  In psychology, harmony refers to a positive state of inner peace, calmness, and balance, as well as the feeling of being tuned with the world. This “tuned with the world” is an important intersection of psychology and human rights. Human rights advocacy is focused on our human relationships – with ourselves and between people, groups, institutions and systems within social and cultural contexts. Human rights are fundamentally about recognizing and respecting the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. Psychology provides      tools to understand and address the complexities of human behavior, emotions, and cognition. Understanding the psychological dimensions of human rights work is crucial for effective advocacy. Psychology also helps us explore a deeper understanding of the trauma and suffering experienced by those affected by human rights violations. Insights from psychology contribute to conflict resolution by providing techniques for communication, negotiation, and fostering constructive dialogue in tense situations.                                                                       

Human rights activism is diverse, spanning various cultures and contexts.  We each carry our own biases. Navigating these many biases within a training group is challenging. Cultural competence, another hallmark of psychological training, has proved invaluable for me in navigating the global landscape of human rights work. I’ve appreciated my background in psychology to enable me to better tailor training content to the needs of diverse groups. It has helped me take into account cultural distinctions and foster a more inclusive and effective learning experience. This has made it possible to better ensure that activists’ strategies are culturally sensitive and resonate with their target audience.

The Role of Training in Amplifying Psychological Insights

I was recently involved in a New Tactics in Human Rights training that specifically highlighted trauma-informed practices within the training. As a program of the Center for Victims of Torture, we recognize the importance of acknowledging and addressing the toll of human rights activism on activists. It is essential to create a safe and supportive environment to share and learn together.                                                       

I have seen how a trauma-informed approach, rooted in psychological principles, supports and promotes healing for both survivors of human rights violations and activists. This plays an important role in sustaining motivation and resilience. This is essential for individuals facing many challenges due to their advocacy efforts.

Activists face high levels of stress due to the nature of their work. During the recent training, we shared how one tool developed by the field of psychology, the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL), can be used by activists. This tool can help foster their own and their organization’s resilience. Other well-being tools and resources were shared to support activists navigate their challenging situations. For example, the field of psychology has developed resources for stress management techniques that trainers can integrate into training curricula. Providing activists with coping skills for stress not only enhances their personal well-being but can also sustain their long-term commitment to human rights advocacy. Incorporating resilience-building strategies into human rights training can help prepare activists for the inevitable challenges they face.

By adding tools for a resilient mindset, such as breathing exercises and finger holds method to relax, advocacy trainers contribute to the long-term sustainability of human rights movements. The importance of resilience and self-care in our advocacy trainings is crucial in helping participants carry on with their advocacy work and their personal life in general; especially that some of our participants are victims themselves for some kind of violation, so the training needs to provide them with advocacy skills as well as self-care techniques. As we continue to strive for a more just and equal world, the harmony of the intersection of psychology and human rights training will play a vital role in our collective pursuit of human rights for all.