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Young people engaging in human rights education – a story from South Africa

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Irfaan Mangera, Youth Activism Programme Manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, describes how young people all over the world can get involved in human rights activism, and describes his own journey.

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Education as a Catalyst for Human Rights Awareness

Human Rights Education is pivotal in raising awareness and understanding of human rights. It empowers individuals with knowledge about their rights and the tools to protect them. For instance, the Holocaust Educational Trust in the UK works to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance. Their extensive educational programs, workshops, and survivor testimonies instill a deeper understanding of the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. This understanding is crucial for fostering a culture of respect and protection for human rights. Globally, initiatives like UNESCO's human rights education programs aim to integrate human rights into school curricula, ensuring that the next generation is better equipped to uphold and advocate for these rights. Such educational efforts form the foundation for a more informed and proactive approach to human rights issues.

Young People Leading the Charge in Human Rights Activism

The involvement of young people in human rights activism has been transformative, bringing new energy and perspectives to longstanding issues. A notable example is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education who became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Malala's advocacy began after the Taliban banned girls from attending school in her region. Her courage in the face of adversity has inspired a global movement for girls' education and rights. Similarly, the March For Our Lives movement, initiated by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, mobilized millions worldwide to advocate for gun control and safer communities. These young activists have shown that with determination and courage, even the voices of the youngest in society can echo loudly on the world stage, driving significant change in human rights policies and perceptions.

The Impact of Grassroots Activism on Human Rights

Grassroots activism protects and promotes human rights, especially in local communities. Grassroots movements often start with individuals or small groups advocating for change in their immediate environment and can grow to have a national or even international impact. An example is the work of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in South Africa. Named after the anti-apartheid activist, the foundation focuses on developing young leaders committed to social justice and non-racialism. Through its youth clubs and community workshops, it engages young people in critical discussions about racism, inequality, and other human rights issues, encouraging them to take action in their communities. Another example is the Black Lives Matter movement, which began as a hashtag and grew into a global organization. It campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people and has significantly influenced public discourse and policy on racial justice worldwide.

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