Human Libraries are challenging stereotypes around the world. Here's how it happens in Poland, India and South Africa

We've previously blogged about The Human Library concept but the stories from the events continue to inspire and encourage a hearty practice of knowledge-sharing - one that leads to greater understanding of each other and our differences. 

The first ever Human Library was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000 with "the aim to challenge prejudice against social contact among people" and now social activists around the globe are fueling this aim and challenging stereotypes in their cities. Here's how it is done in Poland, India and South Africa. 

Milanówek, Poland

Katarzyna Klimowicz, a young activist, was frustrated by the widespread use of hate speech and stereotypical expressions that she was overhearing in everyday conversations in Poland, especially among young people. She brought together a team of like-minded social entrepreneurs to create 4YOUth Foundation for Supporting Youth Initiatives. As one solution to the issues they were experiencing Katarzyna and co. started to run Human Libraries with refugees and immigrants. 

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"Human Library" provides an opportunity for the local Polish and foreign populations to learn from one another through personal interactions. During this activity, participants are divided into Books and Readers.

Katarzyna found that a very compelling way of organizing the “Human Library” activity for the local community was to have refugees from the local refugee center serve as Books; these individuals shared the stories of the danger they faced in their home countries, the heartache that comes with leaving behind everything you have ever known and the difficulty of adjusting to life in a foreign land.

By listening to these stories and interacting with the storytellers, the Readers were presented with the opportunity to challenge their own notions of a population that is often reduced to harmful stereotypes

More on the initiative here

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Hyderabad, India

The Human Library Project is gaining momentum in India. A quick search for "human library" on Google News comes up with 5 reports from events happening in Mumbai, Indore and Hyderabad. Here's an extract from one report in the Deccan Chronicle of the latest event in Hyderabad which attracted more than 800 readers.

On Sunday with the weather being pleasant, hundreds of readers revelled in reading 24 ‘human books’ at the State Art Gallery in Madhapur. Each ‘human book’ shared their story for 30 minutes.

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A book is read by six ‘readers’ in one and they can ask questions. The Human Library of Hyderabad is the brainchild of Mr Harshad Fad who said, “Every book is handpicked and they have broken some societal norms or stereotypes and took forward their life. This is a monthly activity and the number of readers is increasing each time." 

The Human Library visits colleges and corporates with human books every month, apart from organising public readings. At public gatherings which are conducted at parks, hotels or public areas, the ‘books’ are ‘read’ by more readers.

First-time reader Naren Datta said, “These human books act as life changers. I heard the book on how victims of child sexual abuse won their fight.”

Another reader at the event was UK deputy high commissioner Andrew Fleming, who took to Twitter to share his thoughts.

He said, “I enjoyed human library books on trafficking, food addicts journey to being a goodie and may be best of all, a story of Sugandh — the happy and truly inspiring entrepreneur who is doing much for children with autism and was so inspiring,” he said.

Vice India also did a video report of the Hyderabad Human Library. Watch it here

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Capetown, south africa

The Human Library in Cape Town launched earlier this year. They have teamed up with LeadSA - an events and media platform that tells the stories of people who are making South Africa a better place to inspire every person to make a difference. The video below is from their first event - and says it all.