Supporting Young People to Know Their Human Rights
When the Human Rights Act came into force in 2000, its wider aim was to create a culture of respect for human rights here in the UK. Giving young people the chance to learn about their human rights and the rights of those around them is a vital part of building this culture – both now and in the future.
Human rights education is much more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it is a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity.
Right Here, Right Now: Teaching Citizenship through Human Rights
In 2009, we partnered with the Ministry of Justice, Amnesty International and the Department for Children, Schools and Families to create a resource for Key Stage 3 Citizenship teachers in England. The resource links the concepts of universal human rights with everyday experience, focusing on what human rights mean for young people in England and helping teachers bring them to life.
Human Rights Here and Now with the Equality and Human Rights Commission
In 2016, the Equality and Human Rights Commission asked BIHR and our peer facilitators to run human rights workshops for young people. We hosted three events in London and Manchester but attendees came from across the country.
The events provided a way to foster much-needed conversation concerning young people and their rights by providing a crash course on how the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) aims to protect young people’s rights. The day was also a great opportunity to inform young people on how they could get their voices heard on the issues that matter to them and provide a space for them to share their experiences.
We started each event with an icebreaker and an introduction to the Articles in the CRC followed by discussions, talks, activities (including a bunting-making session) and a live artist to capture it all in real time. Our mock United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child was a clear favourite and we also heard some fantastic presentations from participants about the issues affecting young people in the UK today. We heard about racism, budget cuts, education, stop and search, tuition fees, and the voting age to name a few! There was even an impromptu rap!
The knowledge and energy that the young people took from the day was particularly evident in the presentations given. Many of them, initially shaky and shy, really came into their own. For example, one young person used her experience of growing up on Traveller sites to inform her understanding of human rights. Constantly having to move because of the changing law and improper implementation, she described how many in her situation had little education or faced bullying and discrimination in schools. Another young person spoke about the lack of opportunities to participate in human rights mechanisms. How, despite events such as this, young people aren’t given a voice in human rights discussions. All of the groups spoke about a desire to improve opportunities to engage and set a goal of actual change and, in the midst of such a fun programme, an important plea was made: the young people need more. Although some were armed with information that was impressive to hear, sadly many of them weren’t. Many were not clued up on what rights were afforded to them at all, and this event provided basic learning, not improvement of knowledge they already possessed. Many had issues they wanted to voice, almost all of which would be helped by encouraging and facilitating their engagement with human rights discussions.
Rights Here: Right Now at the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children & Young People
That year, BIHR also made a guest appearance at the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People conference titled “Rights Here: Right Now”. There were two action-packed days of awareness-raising on children and young people’s rights in Wales. It was extremely well attended by academics and practitioners as well as children and young people who helped organise and facilitate the conference.
BIHR hosted two workshops focused on the CRC. On Thursday, the young people in attendance were put to the test with a CRC quiz (featuring lightning rounds!) and were pleasantly surprised to see how much the young people knew about their rights and the processes which surround the Convention. We ended the day with a bit of bunting to celebrate the 25th birthday of the CRC and its position as the most universally accepted human rights convention in the world.
On Friday, graphic facilitator Ramon Carr joined us at a workshop titled “Map my Rights: A Forward Strategy for Wales”. Each team was tasked with producing a list of recommendations for the Welsh Government on how they can protect the rights of children and young people The teams were also asked to suggest ways that the Welsh government can eliminate obstacles and provide support to help engage young people with the CRC. We put our drawing skills to the test with the aid of Ramon as we transferred our written thoughts into visual representations. Young people then presented the finished graphic to the entire conference and they voiced their shared opinions on what the Welsh Government needs to do next to safeguard children’s rights.
Whilst young people have so much to say, they are often not given the space to express it. Conferences such as “Rights Here: Right Now” offer the perfect opportunity to bring the voices of young people and children to those with decision-making powers. If there is to be progress in the protection and execution of the CRC, more events like this one must be hosted to ensure that this gap is filled.
Human Rights Young Researchers Project
From 2018 to 2020, we ran a series of one-day sessions for Year 9 students at Surbiton High School and Tiffin School for Boys. In groups, they selected human rights topics to research, carrying out primary and secondary research, then wrote up papers discussing their findings for BIHR to mark. The topics selected covered a broad range of difficult and complex human rights issues, such as workers’ rights, LGBTQ discrimination, and NHS care for immigrants.
The students later presented their research to their peers, family and friends – and faced some tough grilling in the Q&A sessions following each presentation. Questions ranged from the implications of Brexit to prioritising healthcare within the NHS.
Each year, four prizes were awarded for the Best Written Essay; Best Researched Essay; Best Presentation; and an Audience Choice award. Congratulations to all the winners and everyone who took part over the years!
National Association of Principal Educational Psychologists
In May 2018, our now-CEO Sanchita Hosali spoke at the annual conference of the National Association of Principal Educational Psychologists, focusing on how human rights can underpin values in leadership. NAPEP promotes positive, inclusive outcomes for children and young people in educational and community settings, through the application of psychology to management of specialist services.
Sanchita looked at how educational psychologists can encounter human rights issues on a daily basis in their work. For example, to what extent are children’s rights to autonomy or participation in the community fulfilled through educational provisional and support?
These rights are protected by the Human Rights Act, which contains practical legal duties that can be used in everyday work to secure the best outcomes for children. As human rights apply across the board to a range of public services, it provides a unified language educational psychologists can draw on when working with, and sometimes challenging, other officials.
Human rights, whilst based on shared values, provide a specific framework that can be used in practice. Principal Educational Psychologists have a vital role in showing leadership to support staff to use human rights in everyday work, transforming policy and practice.
Read more about human rights and our work in this area.
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