South West Schools Human Rights Conference

Over the past decade Amnesty International UK has developed a national programme of Amnesty Speakers who play a key role in delivering human rights workshops, lessons and assemblies in schools across the UK. The South West Speaker Coordinator, and also a member of our group, Tom Wilson organised the first ever UK Schools Human Rights Conference. This was coordinated by Tom and another former Dorset based teacher and AIUK Speaker Peter Radford.

On Tuesday 5th November just under 300 students and teachers gathered at Talbot Heath School. We had a stall to highlight the long standing existence and activism of the group in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. We highlighted our current campaigns, such as justice for Marielle Franco, and the just launched Write 4 Rights.

Students heard first from Peter Radford,, who challenged delegates to realise the power they each have to defend the human rights of others in everyday situations as well as to raise awareness and engage others in challenging injustice. The conference was delighted to hear from Rebecca Ratcliffe, the sister-in-law of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe currently detained by authorities in Iran. Rebecca shared the trauma of the past three and a half years for their family and the joy at recently being reunited with Nazanin’s daughter Gabriella.

Students were able to choose from a range of workshops on offer on issues such as Climate Change, Modern Slavery, LGBT+ Rights, Women’s Rights and the Refugee Crisis. Headteacher of host school Talbot Heath, Angharad Holloway commented,

“It is more important than ever, during these uncertain times, to stress the importance of universal human rights. I am delighted that Talbot Heath School is hosting this significant regional conference for young people.”

The conference closed with a session led by Tom Wilson giving students the practical tools and strategies to take what they had heard, go back to their schools and make a difference. Harriet, a sixth form student at Talbot Heath commented,

“It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people with the same drive for change. I was educated about issues I had no idea were happening and the speakers showed that everyone has the power to make a difference. I left feeling so motivated and inspired.”

A Year 11 student commented

“I found today very inspirational, and I now think as a school we should promote humans rights more. As we move on I think it’s important that not only our R.A.D group knows how important it is for us globally. As a school I think we should use this opportunity to bring our school together to help the world become a better place by starting with our school.”

Tom and Peter then put on a second Schools Human Rights Conference in Wells the following week. It is hoped such conferences will be appear over the rest of the UK, following on from the success of this launch in the South West. Several of the schools attending in Bournemouth and Wells have offered to host if repeated in 2020.  The two of us representing the local group were ourselves both inspired and excited to see such interest in human rights from the delegates.

amnesty schools conference

Lucy Freeman at our stall

amnesty schools conference

A student reads about our group