Head, heart, hands, health…and human rights? The Advocates for Human Rights recently piloted a new initiative with the 4-H program that allowed students to explore how human rights related to their lives, communities, and passions. Working with the Central Region 4-H Human Rights Project, The Advocates developed two webinars designed to introduce students to international human rights standards and how human rights can be applied to solve issues in their own communities. Students then undertook projects about the human rights issue of their choice with guidance and coaching from volunteer experts in human rights.
Finally, the big day arrived and the students arrived at The Advocates for a day of career exploration and perhaps more importantly, project presentation and judging. Two Advocates staff served as judges, encouraging the 4-H presenters to describe how the knowledge or skills they used in their project might apply in other areas of their lives, and how they could use their work to change systems that perpetuate human rights abuses.
The topics ranged widely. One young man, fueled by his observations of the schools he attended, examined how bullying violates a range of human rights, from the right to personal safety, freedom of expression, the right to health, and the right to education. He advocated for schools to have clear policies and sufficient resources dedicated to combat bullying.
A young woman explored her reaction to the current definition of the international right to life, which does not prohibit abortion. She offered a passionate argument that the moment of conception is when a person becomes human and should therefore be entitled to all their human rights, including life. She plans to continue to work on the issue and hopes to change international human rights law.
Two students collaborated on a sculpture and news compendium highlighting the struggles and triumphs of the movement for LGBTQ rights worldwide. Inspired by their own struggles and success at establishing a Gay-Straight Alliance at their school, they spoke about continuing threats to the lives and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals but also emphasized the tremendous courage and accomplishments of activists fighting for equality.
In all stages of the project, 4-H students enthusiastically welcomed a chance to engage with human rights and learn more about how human rights play out in their lives. The next generation of human rights defenders is ready to work!