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How to Establish a Human Rights Commission in Your Town: A Guide

In August of 2017, three women and many dedicated volunteers began the work of establishing a Human Rights Commission in the small town of Guilford, Connecticut. We were successful in this endeavor, and the Human Rights Commission was officially added to the Guilford Town Charter on February 4, 2019.

To follow are the steps we took to achieve this goal, along with templates and documents that you can download for your own use. All documents, including our proposal, were co-authored by April D'Amato, Clarice Yasuhara, and myself and are being shared with permission graciously granted by April and Clarice.

1. Establish an organizational identity and goal.

We decided to call ourselves the Guilford Human Rights Advocates (GHRA). We designed a simple logo to use on social and print media and on signage. Our sole goal was as follows:

"We seek to establish a Commission on Human Rights, which will promote Guilford as a safe space for its residents and visitors, and create a welcoming presence in our town. We seek to ensure mutual respect, tolerance, and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, health status, or ability."

2. Establish a mission statement.

We chose to use the second line of our stated goal for this purpose:

"We seek to ensure mutual respect, tolerance, and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, health status, or ability."

3. Establish contact information and a social media presence.

The three co-chairs decided to list our cell phone numbers on all print and media platforms. We set up a P.O. Box at our town post office, an email address on Gmail, and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GuilfordHumanRights).

4. Create a petition.

Your town government will need to see that a significant portion of its constituency supports the creation of a Human Rights Commission. We designed both a paper petition and an online petition at ipetitions.com (https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/guilford-human-rights).

Download our petition template here.

5. Print out a brochure and signage.

We designed a simple tri-fold brochure in Word, which we printed at home. We also designed a small banner. These materials were essential for tabling at a variety of events, and allowed us to spread the word about who we were and what we hoped to accomplish.

Download our brochure template here.

6. Hold and/or cosponsor free community events that will demonstrate the types of educational programs you’ll be providing to the residents of your town. Ours included the following:

  • International Day of Peace: Celebration on the Guilford Green
  • National I Am Jazz Day of Reading: Storytime reading of I Am Jazz for children
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Showing of the movie Selma
  • Women’s History Day: Community conversation on sex trafficking in Connecticut
  • Women’s History Month: Postpartum depression support group
  • Women’s History Month: Community conversation on women in Islam
  • Holocaust Remembrance Day: Community conversation with a Holocaust survivor
  • World Day for Cultural Diversity: Community conversation around diversity
  • Celebrating Malala Day: Storytime reading of Malala’s Magic Pencil for children, and adult book club reading of I Am Malala
  • 7. Ask town leaders for support of your initiative.

    We sent out letters to Guilford’s state senator and representative, and to Guilford’s nonprofit, business, organization, and faith leaders asking them to send us letters of support via email or snail mail. We included a template that they were able to modify or simply sign as-is.

    Download our letter to town leaders template here.

    Download our letter of support template here.

    8. Draft a well-researched proposal to present to your town government.

    We researched our town and regional demographics, looked at other human rights initiatives in Connecticut, and wrote a twenty-two page proposal outlining our findings and the ways in which a Human Rights Commission would benefit our community.

    Download our proposal here.

    That’s it, in a nutshell. It took a lot of time, patience, outreach, and support, but we did it! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We wish you much success in establishing a Human Rights Commission in your town!

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