Know Your Rights Trainings

Know Your Rights (KYR) trainings are central to Community Legal Empowerment. KYR trainings focus on providing refugees with knowledge of the rights they are entitled to under international and local law.

The first and most vital strategic concern is which group(s) to target. This process is discussed in greater detail on the identify refugees in your context section. The group that you expect to attend the workshop (e.g. detained asylum seekers, educated locals) will determine how you will decide to structure workshop content. When considering who your target group should be, consider the following questions:

  • What group has the greatest need?
  • Who can benefit most from a KYR workshop?
  • What do they need to know?
  • Will this workshop be for all refugees in the targeted vicinity?
  • Is it for a specific cultural group of refugees?
  • Is it for women or men or both?

Here is a worksheet to help you analyze the most appropriate group for a KYR workshop.

This page gives a broad overview of how to prepare for and conduct an effective KYR workshop for refugee advocates in any region of the world. It will go over a variety of steps, from choosing an appropriate meeting location to breaking down the 1951 Refugee Convention for diverse audiences, and will also provide basic materials for getting started.

We start with a few basic assumptions:

  • You want to create and/or lead a KYR workshop to give refugees the knowledge to become their own advocates in reference to rights granted under the 1951 Refugee Convention, other local declarations and your country’s particular laws.
  • You have already determined your target group.
  • You will have to adjust what is provided here and tailor it to your particular situation.
  • You are familiar with computer software such as Microsoft PowerPoint.

This section  is comprehensive enough for an instructor with very little experience to find sufficient guidance on most things that go into planning and conducting a workshop, and streamlined enough for an experienced instructor to find useful as a refresher tool in the planning stages.

Preparing for a workshop

Preparing for a Workshop is an in-depth process that requires careful attention and thought. Asylum Access uses a five-step process for planning a KYR Workshop. Most of the steps are supplemented by samples and training materials that you may print out and edit for your own use. Remember that, even before starting, you should have chosen and researched your target group for the KYR workshop.

Step 1: Set clear objectives

Layering Your Objectives

To give a thorough and effective KYR workshop, you need a clear idea of what participants need to learn from the workshop as well as what the participants’ goals are for attending. This will shape your overall objectives. If your workshop encompasses many subjects and is held over a longer period of time, you may also need to create session-specific objectives.

For example, if your workshop is meant to teach asylum seekers about the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, your overarching objectives may be:

  • Explaining international law and the history behind the Convention
  • Informing them about their recognized rights as refugees
  • Providing an overview of the refugee situation in their country of refuge
  • Detailing the resources available to them.

Each overarching or big-picture objective will form the main subject of an individual workshop. For longer workshops, your session-specific objectives will then break these larger objectives into even more detailed learning goals.

Be detailed

Having concise, well-articulated goals going into a workshop will help participants understand more clearly why they are there and what they are meant to be learning. They may not remember everything that you tell them, but if they remember the objectives, they will have a significantly better understanding than before.

Step 2: Research for and draft the curriculum

Jurisdiction-Specific Research

Now that you have set some objectives, you need to prepare your curriculum with jurisdiction-specific material. Of course, what needs to be researched will depend on your audience and the session topics of your workshop.

Some general areas of research:

  • Specific laws that affect this group: As a refugee advocate, familiarity with certain documents is a must, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. Depending on your region, there may also be pertinent regional declarations such as the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees for Latin America, 1966 Bangkok Principles on Status and Treatment of Refugees for Asia, 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and most recently, the 2004 European Union Council Directive.
  • Changes in the law: It is important to stay updated with changes in laws (local or otherwise) affecting your region and most importantly, that may directly impact the people you are trying to empower.
  • Local context: The RSD process depends greatly on the country it is being conducted in. Additionally, it may be true that in your city/region/country, some groups of refugees are more likely to be granted status than others. In fact, in some areas, there may be certain populations that are immediately turned away for geopolitical reasons. In some countries, while the law provides generous protection for refugees, the reality is the contrary, and the consequences are sometimes serious. As an instructor, this type of knowledge is vital to making the workshop practical and useful for your participants.
Drafting a curriculum

Your curriculum should present a balanced combination of information and activities.


  • Activities are useful for KYR workshops because they effectively increase knowledge retention and participation while allowing refugees to practice in a safe environment.
  • Activities should be objective-driven, meaning they should aim to achieve a specific learning goal and not just to lighten the mood or give participants a break. Remember that a set of activities which worked for one target group may not work for another. A list of suggested activities is available here.

Learning materials

  • The last item in preparing for the substantive part of a workshop is the kind of material resources which will be available to participants during and after the workshop (i.e. handouts, worksheets, evaluations). Since not all participants will take notes, it is a good idea to have materials available for participants to take home for family and friends.
  • One idea is to have wallet-sized cards that list refugee rights and the resources available to them for easy reference. Refugees can have these with them at all times and have instant access to critical information. A wallet-sized card is a portable document listing important information refugees can carry around easily for emergency situations. The first example below is a foldable wallet card that the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) gives to undocumented workers in the United States detailing their rights in legal situations.
    • Some wallet-sized cards will have a two-sentence phrase that refugees can use when faced with law enforcement authorities. This phrase varies from region to region. In America, some immigrant rights groups have distributed wallet-sized cards in English with, “My name is _____________ and I have the right to not talk to you.” However, this is not always effective in practice because it over-simplifies a complicated position.
    • The most effective approach involves informing participants of their recognized rights under international law before addressing the regional reality; this empowers refugees to use their own discretion applying either in various confrontational situations. Nevertheless, as the instructor in your area, it is also up to your discretion whether there might be a relevant and useful phrase.  The second example below is another card that the ACLU distributes in the United States.
American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 1 (front)

American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 1 (front)


American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 1 (back)

American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 1 (back)


American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 2 (front)

American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 2 (front)


American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 2 (back)

American Civil Liberties Union Sample Rights Card 2 (back)


  • It is good practice to have all participants fill out an evaluation form at the end of the session. This is critical to your own performance and effectiveness. This is how you learn what topics to cover, what activities were helpful, etc. The evaluation could be as simple as listing all of the objectives in question form.

Step 3: Choose a location

Location matters

The location of the workshop is important because attitudes toward refugees may differ by neighborhood and many of your participants may have security concerns. Holding the workshop in a space that is familiar to the community you are targeting—such as a community place of worship —is ideal. By having your KYR workshop in an area where your targeted audience already gathers, you can avoid fears of insecurity and enable your participants to feel more at ease. While having a workshop in your office might seem like a good idea, building rapport with the targeted group may take time. Having your first workshop in their comfort zone can help foster that relationship.

Choosing a space

To a large extent, the facility or building (school, place of worship, community center, etc.) you select determines the type of workshop you can have, depending on the available resources (i.e. computer, projector, kitchen) and how long you can reserve the area and seating capacity. Before deciding on a space, ensure that you know what resources are needed. Decide based on effectiveness—if your workshop will not be as effective without visual aids, videos, etc., do not settle for a space without these capabilities.

This step may seem preemptive but the logistics of planning an event can often take more time and energy than initially anticipated so you are advised to allocate ample time in advance. Furthermore, the location and facilities available will determine how the workshop is formed.

Step 4: Create an agenda

Once you have the overarching picture of the workshop, you need to draw it together. This is the practical step of organizing and planning out exactly how the workshop will be conducted.

Things to consider when crafting your agenda:

  • Check-in procedures. It is a great idea to have participants sign-in on a sign-in sheet when they arrive, so that you have a systematic way of gathering contact information documenting attendance. Be prepared: some participants may be hesitant to give their information for security reasons.
  • Late arrivals. Consider the pros and cons of having a firm starting time (pro: limited interruptions, con: excludes people whose jobs, schedules, etc. prevent them from being able to attend because of the starting time).
  • Materials. Provide all materials and writing tools participants might need. Some common presentation supplies you may consider are markers, poster paper and a computer.
  • Activity length. Consider how long you can hold the attention of your participants. This will depend on your audience.
  • Question and answer session. People fearful for their safety will have questions and want answers. Therefore, it is wise to allocate enough time to this portion of the workshop. For many of the participants, this will be the most useful section. Be wary of spending too much time on a single question or providing one-on-one advice to any participants, which should take place after the workshop. Try to distribute your time and attention evenly throughout the group.
  • Final procedures. Distribute evaluations to every participant. A good way to ensure you retain all forms is to stand by the exit and make sure everyone gives you one as they walk out.

Step 5: Advertise

Getting the word out
  • Community connections: If no one knows about the workshop, no one can come. Use connections to community leaders to publicize the workshop. You may want to provide community leaders with appropriate publicity materials if you do not want to publicize it broadly.
  • Timing is everything: Do not advertise too early in advance because people will forget. On the other hand, if you only advertise a few days ahead of time, you might not reach a broad audience. Handing out leaflets one to two weeks in advance in the targeted community is ideal.
  • Designing the leaflet: Lastly, when designing a leaflet, keep it simple and focused on the most relevant information. Be sure to translate it into all languages of refugees in your area.