Career in Human Rights: A rewarding but challenging path

Careers in human rightsMalala Yousafzai, a teenage girl from Pakistan, became a figure of strength and courage when she stood up for her rights despite bullets, intimidation or death threats. What was she demanding? How does Malala get entitled to demand for education for girls?


Human Rights are those fundamental, universal and inalienable rights which are granted to a person on the virtue of being a human. Representing fundamental human values, these rights are eternal and unvarying; all other rights flow from these. Human rights are the basic rights of a person to survive in this world, such as the right to education, healthy food, housing, clean water, freedom of movement and speech and freedom from slavery and discrimination.

Human rights’ field is broad and multidisciplinary, and comprises of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations working to promote and protect rights of every man, woman and child. These organizations use variety of approaches including direct service, advocacy, policy development, and research. Over the years it is observed that the variety of career opportunities in the field has increased manifold and includes media professionals, researchers, analysts, proposal writers, journalists, teachers etc.

To enter the field there are multiple entry points, but a degree in Human Rights or specialized courses would help one get the knowledge and skills required. Universities offer certificate, diploma and degree courses specialized in Human Rights or offer electives/courses as a part of other degree programs, such as Political Science, Development Studies, International Development etc. For those interested in study of law, specializing in human rights or international law, after a basic law degree would be beneficial.

Human Rights field is challenging and intense. To have a better understanding of various human rights’ issues, one must have experience of on-the field reality of issues. For this, taking up internships or voluntary assignments during the course or long term internships offered by various national and international non-government organizations is a good option. These internships will help gain the necessary skills, experience, references and the sense of what a typical job profile would be like after one gets into the field.

Human rights professionals can work with NGOs working for Human Rights issues and civil liberties. Such NGOs also function in the area of human rights activism, disaster and emergency relief, displaced people, humanitarian assistance, bonded labour, child rights, conflict resolution and public interest litigation, among others. Some important and well known organizations working in the field are:

While working to alleviate the suffering of the disadvantaged can be both satisfying and rewarding, one must not overlook the challenges that come with it. As a professional in International Human Rights, travel to foreign field offices and living away from your family and friends, sometimes in very difficult environments, comes as a part and parcel of the job. You may also have to learn foreign languages to interact with local people and understand the situation better. Knowing another language and having the ability to speak thoughtfully about the politics and economics of a region can be a real asset.

If one is passionate about working for social justice, working in Human Rights field can be a rewarding journey both personally and professionally.

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Richa Sharma

Richa Sharma is a development professional who is passionate about causes such as Human Rights, education and gender issues. She received her postgraduate degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati in Development Studies. She has interned in various organizations such as National Human Rights Commission, Teach for India, Deepalaya etc. Her other interests include theatre, debating, travelling and good food! She is a trained Radio Jockey and an amateur photographer who loves clicking wherever she travels.