Balancing Human Rights Activism and Self-Care in the Digital Era

Mawadri Douglas Sept. 5, 2022

Human rights activists are exposed to mental health and psychological well-being challenges, fear, and grief, all of which can lead to long-term stress and inefficiency in human function.

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The journey

Human rights activism and defending human rights always begin with a definition of "rights" and the enforcement of the principles that protect these rights. To use an analogy, consider the hen, which jealousy protects its chicks from the eagle and other wild birds with its life. The hen is exposed to rain, heat, and snake snares as a result of eating its eggs and, later, the young. Human rights are meant to be fully enjoyed, with no infringements or breaches.

Humans are obligated to exercise these rights and are confronted with injustices. Injustices, persecutions, conflict, and atrocities are occurring all over the world, primarily as a result of human activity. This ranges from climate change destroying fauna and flora to wars leaving societies fearful of their most immediate neighbors—Machetes and “mutayimbwa” welding thugs; governments whipping on-social groups, political leaders, civil societies, LGBTQI groups, and so on—against associations, assemblies, and organizing to advocate for social welfare and wellbeing. This clearly contradicts the universal declaration of human rights tenets of freedom of enjoyment of rights, despite the authorities' arguments for retention. These issues expose activists to mental health and psychological well-being challenges, fear, and grief, all of which can lead to long-term stress and inefficiency in human function.

In some places, those who speak out against injustice face severe consequences. Human rights defenders, lawyers, advocates, and political actors who confronted injustices faced severe violations during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, including arrest and detention without trial.

The New Tactics

Despite the challenges of resilience, optimism, and unwavering energy, technological innovations address organizational, coordination, mobilization, and efficacy gaps in quiet moments. Technological advances benefit human rights work by making it more visible and impactful, making it easier to report human rights violations, and raising public awareness about their rights. This means that people who work for human rights must improve their technical skills and find ways to make their work enjoyable while also caring for their mental health and well-being.

As a means of balancing activism, digital technology has played a significant role in human rights innovation and practices to promote rights even in the face of adversity, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The digital inclusion community of practice continues to engage human rights defenders in the best practices of using technology to not only advance human rights but also to balance activism and self-care in the digital era through service delivery innovations. Associates for Health Rights-AHAR-Uganda continues to strengthen its team in the peer-to-peer model, which engages peer members in self-care and mental health support activities through the use of technology, a new curriculum developed with users, and digital tools that allow users to regularly participate in self-care and awareness programs. through the peer-to-peer model across various organizations and regions, with the use of digital technology tools that make it simple for users to continue with self-care and wellness sessions

Human rights activists are thus encouraged to adopt new tactics that benefit their mental health and well-being at work, at home, and in social settings. The new tactics offer a wide range of services, including tools, applications, services, podcasts, digital resources, and so on. Human rights activists have effectively used digital information tools and resources through digital inclusion methods of service delivery, which can be accessed and utilized by human rights activists in times of stress and need. As a result, digital information tools are referred to as resources for human rights activists seeking to balance activism and self-care.

New Tactics may look like this;

  • Coordination or facilitation of the well-being conversations, as well as invitation of other conversation leaders and participants. Digital tools enable people from different communities to communicate quickly and experts to collaborate to solve problems even if they haven't met in person.
  • Allowing conversation Leaders to see the conversation questions ahead of time so they can prepare answers and resources to share.
  • Spreading the word about the conversation, using websites, email updates, Zoom calls, Twitter chats and spaces, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as any other digital technology tool.
  • Teaching conversation leaders (also known as peer leaders) how to participate in Twitter chats using webinars and podcasts to provide support
  • Gathering feedback on the conversation process and results. This facilitates data collection and research on specific topics while also collecting information on participation.
  • Sharing these conversations and posting a summary on our websites so that people can go back and review the ideas that were discussed.
  • Peer participants are given the opportunity to interact with experts in a given field of request (expert psychologists, lawyers, Regenerators, technocrats, and so on) through digital technology systems. This not only reduces the cost of unnecessary travel and the spread of airborne diseases, but also connects communities in real-time to seek assistance.


Digital technology is important in human rights activism and in improving self-care for activists. Recognizing that human rights activism is linked to occupational liability risks such as stress, trauma, burnout, depression, anxiety, and other related phobias that can lead to mental health issues, digital tools help to strike a better balance between activism and self-care. As a result, digital technology tools promote positive mental health and self-care even when no expert is present. Human rights activists are encouraged to continue using digital technology tools for self-care and wellness practices under the Digital Inclusion COP and other COPs.