Totem interactive online course on human rights documentation

Totem is offering a free online course on the common stages of human rights documentation and what can be achieved with community-led documentation


Totem is offering a course on ‘Human Rights Documentation’ where you will learn about the common stages of a documentation effort, what important considerations you will need to think about along the way, and what can be achieved with community-led human rights documentation.

There are many paths to achieving the goals of a community that has been affected by human rights violations. Human rights documentation is a way of capturing, preserving, and sharing stories of human rights abuses to seek redress for the harm, hold perpetrators of abuse accountable and secure the collective memories of the past for the present and future. By using effective documentation, your community can take care of their narratives and pursue these goals.

What is Totem?

Totem is an online platform that offers interactive courses to learn how to increase digital security and privacy. The optimal user experience is currently on your desktop computer. The aim is to support journalists, human rights defenders and activists use privacy tools and tactics more effectively in their work.

The content was created with the help of experts, trainers and online education experts from several organisations who collaborated during a workshop to co-create this Totem course. The content team includes members from HURIDOCS, WITNESS and Horizontal.

About the course

What is human rights documentation?

In this course, the word ‘documentation’ refers to knowing, getting, organising, preserving, understanding and using information to achieve your community’s goals. Documentation is a purposeful, well-planned, and ongoing act and process which centres our communities and uses technologies well. Effective human rights movements require documentation.

Who is this course for?

Community-led human rights documentation is an act of solidarity and care. It aims to do no harm as it prioritises people over data. As a result, this course is for members of communities who want to or have already started documenting human rights abuses.

This course is for you if:

  • You are thinking how to go about starting documenting human rights abuses in your community;
  • You have some initial documentation but are trying to find ways to systematise your approach; or
  • You have been doing documentation for a while but are feeling stuck or running low in energy

Course framework

The course tackles the following steps of human rights documentation:

  • Module 1: Determine the information you need
  • Module 2: Get the information
  • Module 3: Preserve the information
  • Module 4: Understand the information you have
  • Module 5: Use of the information
Information Life Cycle: The steps of human rights documentation

What will you learn?

In this course, you will learn about common stages of a documentation effort, what important considerations you will need to think about along the way, and what can be achieved with community-led human rights documentation.

The course brings you the voices and experiences of courageous human rights workers and community members across the globe. In the spirit of solidarity, the course aims to help participants learn from each other. These communities have documented human rights under dangerous circumstances and with limited resources. Whether you are just starting out or currently facing a roadblock in your documentation endeavours, you are not alone.

Course information

  • Classes start: 10 March 2022 (no end date)
  • Estimated effort: 2.5 hours 
  • Price: Free
  • Course type: Self-paced
  • Certificate: On completion 
  • Language: English

Related Totem courses

Do you have a public collection of human rights information that needs support? HURIDOCS would love to help. Get in touch!

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