||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > Who are I?
Who are I?
I am what I am, you are what you are, she
is what she is...but together we have a lot in common!
||Gender equality, Discrimination
and Xenophobia, Citizenship
||This activity involves buzz groups, brainstorming, drawing
and group discussion to explore issues of identity.
- Equality in dignity and respect
- The right not to be discriminated against
- The right to life, liberty and security of person
- To be aware of our own individuality and that of others
- To identify what we have in common with others
- To promote solidarity and respect
- Coloured pens and markers, if possible a different
colour for each participant
- Enough paper for one sheet per person
- Flipchart paper and markers
- To warm up, ask people to get into pairs to form buzz groups.
Ask them to pretend that they are strangers and to introduce
themselves to each other.
- Now ask people to reflect what is interesting or important
to know about someone else when you first meet, and brainstorm
the general categories of information. For example, name, age,
sex, nationality, family role, religion, age, gender, ethnicity,
job/study, taste in music, hobbies, sports, general likes and
dislikes and more.
- Now explain that participants are going to find out how much
each of them has in common with others in the group. Hand out
the paper and pens and explain that the first step is for each
of them to draw a representation of their identity. They should
think of themselves like stars; aspects of their identity radiate
out into their society. Ask people to consider the eight to
ten most important aspects of their identity and to draw their
- Tell people to go around and compare their stars. When they
find someone else with whom they share a beam or ray, they should
write that person's name near the beam. (For example, if Jan
and Parvez both have a "rapper" beam, they should
write each other's names along that beam). Allow 15 minutes
- Now come back into plenary and ask people to talk about how
individual each of them was. You could ask:
- Which aspects of identity do people have in common
and which are unique?
- How similar and how different are people in the
group? Do people have more in common with each other
than they have aspects that are different?
- Finally, do a group brainstorm of the aspects of identity
that people choose and those that they are born with. Write
these up in two columns on the flip chart.
Debriefing and evaluation
Now move on to discuss what people have discovered about themselves
and about each other and the implications for human rights.
- What did people learn about themselves? Was it hard to decide
which were the most significant aspects of their identity?
- Were people surprised at the results of comparing stars?
Did they have more or less in common than they expected?
- How did people feel about the diversity in the group? Did
they feel it made the group more interesting to be in or does
it make it more difficult to work together?
- Were there any aspects of other people's identity that participants
felt strongly inclined to react to and say, "I am not."?
For example, I am not a football fan, not a fan of techno music,
not a dog lover, not homosexual or not Christian.
- How does identity develop? Which aspects are social constructs
and which are inherent and fixed?
- In relation to gender issues in particular, which aspects
are social constructs and which are inherent and fixed? Did
participants write "girl" or "boy"? What
do people associate with the words "boy" and "girl"?
Are the associations the same for both sexes and for all boys
and all girls?
- How much are people judged by their individual identity and
how much by the group that they belong to?
- How do participants feel about having the freedom to be able
to choose their own identity? What are the implications for
themselves and their society, and especially for the human rights
of equality and respect?
Tips for facilitators
The name of this activity is not wrong!
It is intended to puzzle participants.
In the warm up you may want to give some participants a tip
to get them thinking on the right lines. You could give yourself
as an example or use an imaginary person like: Olena, woman, Ukrainian,
mother, wife, trainer, traveller, music lover.
The purpose of giving each participant a different colour is
to give people the idea that everyone is unique and that the group
is composed of a rainbow of identities. (The analogy is with South
Africa, which calls itself the "rainbow nation", that
is a nation made up of people of all colours.) If you have a large
group and two or more people have to share the same colour pen,
ask them to use different styles of writing.
If you wish, you can make the activity a little more sophisticated
by suggesting that people draw their personal stars with longer
or shorter beams or rays according to how public or private they
feel a particular aspect of their identity is. Longer beams reach
further out into society and are therefore more public.
Some of the following points could come up in the final brainstorm
(at step 6):
- Aspects of identity I can choose: name, friend, job, membership
of a political party, favourite music, style of clothes, the
football team you support, where you live,
- Aspects of identity I am born with: sex, age, height, eye
- There will be some aspects of identity that may cause controversy,
for example nationality, gender and sexuality, religion, being
member of a minority.
The discussion about how identity develops and which aspects
of identity are social constructs and which are inherent and fixed
will also be controversial, especially those relating to religion
and gender. It is worth asking participants to consider their
own process of growing up and how certain aspects of their identity
have changed over the years, perhaps even those aspects of their
identity that they think are fixed.
You may wish to draw some conclusions from the discussions,
for example, that we are all human beings who have rights which
cannot be gifted or taken away regardless of race, colour, property,
birth or other status.
Suggestions for follow-up
This activity can serve as an opener for many other discussions,
for instance, questions about the universality of human rights,
discrimination and xenophobia, children's rights, and citizenship.
If the group want to look further at identity and gender issues
they may enjoy the activity "Heroines
and heroes". If the group is multicultural, and you want
to encourage the participants' curiosity about their different
cultures, then a good follow-up activity is "My
story" in the all different all equal education pack.
If you want to move on from discussing identity to an individual's
rights to equality in dignity and to human rights in general,
then one suggestion is to do the "Draw
the word game" on page 120.