The House is an incredible place! I have never seen in my life so many people gathered to discuss human rights issues in Ukraine. This is a very valuable experience for me. I hope to attend the Education Human Rights Festival 2021.

Anastasia Velentiy, participant and volunteer at the festival.

One of the largest human rights events in Ukraine, Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv took measures to ensure the continued success of the festival amidst the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis. Over 100 people participated online, joining approximately 60 physical attendees. The festival followed strict guidelines on sanitation and social distancing.

An emphasis on education

Participants were able to take part in a variety of human rights-related discussions as the festival was split into five distinct blocks. The first block was devoted to the themes of ensuring equal access to education, the role of schools in the pandemic, and changes that can be made to improve the provision of this right in Ukraine.

Participants took part in discussions, talked about the importance of human rights education in schools and, along with the speakers, they shared their experiences and discussed the possibilities of promoting new projects in the human rights field.

In the second block, participants were introduced to the idea of providing human rights education through festivals promoting democracy. Speakers included festival organisers from Ukraine and abroad. The speakers shared their experiences so that participants might organise their own festivals, public discussions, and open dialogues in the future.

Such a festival is a great opportunity to discover new ideas, which participants can take back to their regions.

Oleksiy Bida, speaker and coordinator of the UHHRU Documentation Center.

The right to govern as an element of transitional justice and reintegration of occupied territories were raised during the third thematic block, which was attended by legal experts working in the public and private spheres. The fourth block was attended by participants of the Human Rights Schools. Youth activists in attendance emphasized the importance of local activism and the formation of active leadership in the community. Moreover, participants attended a master class on writing grant applications and even presented their own mini-projects during a competition. The expert jury supported six projects that will be implemented by young people from August to September in 2020.

The fifth block of the festival was held entirely online – participants from around the world had the opportunity to take part in thematic webinars and ZOOM discussions. International and Ukrainian experts presented the issues related to the global pandemic including overcoming stress, crisis in relationships, and avoiding depression during the quarantine.

In addition to the exciting courses on human rights and education, festival attendees became well acquainted with the legends of ancient Chernihiv, learned the history of songs about human rights during a performance of a chamber choir, listened to interesting life stories during a “living library” and made their own DIY Human Rights House-emblazoned bags. Two teams of volunteers, who expressed a desire to take part in the organisation of the festival, helped to hold additional side events during the festival.

Success in unprecedented times

Held in a year that has made gatherings more complex than ever before, Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv rose to the challenge to ensure that the festival was a success.

Online broadcasts and webinars were introduced into the programme, enabling many participants to join remotely. Participants attending at the House maintained strict social distancing, and much of the activity was held outdoors.

Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv hopes that the participants will use the gained experience to create their own projects and will be ready to present good results at the Educational Human Rights Festival 2021.

The organisation of the Educational Human Rights Festival 2020 was possible thanks to a partnership with the Human Rights House Foundation, the financial support of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Human Rights for Ukraine project implemented by the UNDP in Ukraine and funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019-2023.

Top photo: Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv