Schools team up for human rights

Norman encourages local schools to support Amnesty International

Norman encourages local schools to support Amnesty International

MP Norman Baker encourages local schools to support the work of Amnesty International.

Schools across Lewes took part in an innovative workshop to cultivate collective human rights campaigning by students – and created flowers of support for a Cambodian prisoner of conscience to symbolise the collaboration.

40 students from Chailey School, Priory School and Ringmer Community College attended the event supported by Lewes Amnesty International Group on Friday [25th October 2013] to help schools across the district work together to develop their own student-led human rights campaigns.

The students heard talks from Amnesty International’s UK Co-ordinator for Young People Anne Montague and former Argentinian prisoner of conscience Perico Rodriguez – who described the value of global support during his incarceration and torture following the 1976 military coup.

Then students generated their own ideas about how they might combine efforts to raise awareness of human rights and encourage other young people to join their school Amnesty groups.

Letters in the form of petals arranged into seven flowers were written in support of Cambodian prisoner of conscience Yorm Bopha, a 30 year-old human rights activist who was imprisoned on the basis of apparently spurious charges after leading other women in a peaceful protest. The flowers will add to others from schools up and down the country that will be sent to Yorm Bopha.

MP Norman Baker came to see the results of the workshop and stressed the importance of Amnesty International’s work to people who are less fortunate.

Lewes Amnesty International Group Secretary Ian McClelland said: “School groups make a highly valuable contribution to the work of Amnesty International, raising awareness of the importance of human rights and their protection amongst the upcoming generation and often bringing fresh ideas to support positive change. There are now 550 school Amnesty groups across the UK, and we hope the workshop in Lewes will support and inspire local young people to work together for human rights and recognise how effective collective as well as individual efforts can be.

“A lot of great ideas got discussed and the students were very quick to see opportunities for how they could work together.

“I think everyone was moved by Perico Rodriguez’s account of how he had been arrested, incarcerated without charge and tortured – his family never allowed to visit him nor told where he was being held. He talked about how important the actions by Amnesty were in getting him released and reunited with his family. He told the students that his way of thanking the people who helped him was to help run the Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture and help others who suffer now.

“We were delighted with how the event went and impressed by the response of the schools and students, who were enthusiastic and full of brilliant, innovative ideas to take forward. ”