Changing the Landscape of Human Rights Awareness


by Tanya Ayala

Damiano.pngDamiano Raveenthiran may appear to be your average university student, hunched over a MacBook, iPad or iPhone updating his social media accounts, but he uses his extensive knowledge and experience with social media for the greater good: human rights awareness. Better known around the internet and radio as DamianoR, this fall the Political Science student was promoted to VP Social Media & Promotions for Concordia's chapter of Journalists for Human Rights. Through his dedication, the chapter has developed a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr in only a few short months. "I have been trying to get JHR Concordia on every social medium and we have made a lot of great connections with people in the human rights field in Canada and overseas because...we are the next generation of rights journalists." His goal for the chapter is to learn and teach as much as possible "for ourselves and our future".

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In addition to managing the social media of JHR Concordia, Damiano also manages his personal website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Vlog and maintains a significant presence on various social media platforms. It's these self-developed skills and his love for technology and the Internet that is reflected in his academic and extra-curricular work. As Social Media Coordinator, Jennifer Braun, would say, "Damiano is just so knowledgable. He always comes up with great ideas and introduces the JHR team to new things. He's always willing to dedicate his time to help out as well."

Damiano's passion for human rights awareness is rooted in his family's history. Although he was born and raised in Italy, his family originates from Sri Lanka, "where a civil ethnic war has torn the country apart for decades and where journalists are [still] being silenced". He also made the selfless choice to use his skills to actively promote rights media because of the racism he experienced growing up in a conservative white community in Rome,

"I have been a victim of racial hate, not just from other kids but also [from] teachers and people in general...I always wished someone would come and help me out as a kid, so now that I'm an adult I want to be that person that never save me."

He became involved with JHR Concordia, an organization that aims to inform and motivate people to take action on human rights issues, in the summer of 2011 because of his strong interest in human rights and journalism and because he "believe[s] that informing people about their rights and violations are the first step[s] towards a socially just society". Advances in technology and social media have changed the landscape for rights media and JHR Concordia has eagerly participated as Damiano explained,

"Every major human rights organization is online now. If you're not on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, people won't hear about you. This advancement in [technology] has allowed us to connect with people everywhere. JHR Concordia has worked with several organizations that we would not have worked with if we didn't have the power of the [Internet]. Networking this way goes much deeper than just being a paper-bound journalist."

As most students are busy with classes and part-time jobs, it may be difficult to imagine dedicating so much time and effort to human rights awareness, but as Damiano says, "Our generation definitely needs to get more involved and believe [they] can make a difference...Join an organization, put pressure on your government officials [by protesting, or on] corporate executives by consuming responsibly." He believes that every person has a skill or talent they can use to make a difference and hopes that as the economic conditions in North America improve, the focus can shift from money to human rights. He acknowledges that the first challenge our generation faces is that they need to wake up and "support global human growth without supporting the unequal systems that destroy communities, the planet, and human dignity" in the name of 'development'.

This past semester has been very successful for JHR Concordia thanks to their dedicated team of student journalists. They conduct a weekly radio show on CKUT 90.3fm, write a weekly opinion column in Concordia's The Link, update their Facebook and Twitter accounts daily, promote human rights-related events on Tumblr, post articles and photo essays on their Wordpress website, and publish videos on their YouTube account. They held three well-received Speak4Rights events this semester, featuring Professor Julie Norman, Professor Felix Von Geyer and lawyer Pear Eliadis, and participated in the global Holler Day event to raise awareness of the 1.6 million victims of sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo through speakers, activities, and literally standing in solidarity for 16 hours.

What human rights issue would Damiano like the public to be more aware of today?
"Freedom of the press and of speech would be right up there on the list, along with the right to an affordable education because people that aren't educated are [easier to control], and that to me isn't right.

To learn more about Journalists for Human Rights at Concordia (and how to get involved), please visit, follow them on Twitter @jhrConU, and Facebook Page:

Also, follow Damiano on Twitter @DamianoR and visit his My General Blog.

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