Young HR Reporter Award winners write on children's rights

The winners of AIUK's Young Human Rights Reporter Award have been announced.  Children aged 7-14 were asked to write an article or report of between 200 and 250 words on a human rights-related issue. 

Both of the winners, interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, wrote about issues that affect children their own age: children detained in immigration facilities, and the effect of bullying on children.   You can read their excellent short pieces here

Florence Potkins, aged 11, from Drayton Park Primary School in Highbury, won the upper primary category for 7 to 11 year olds.  Florence’s article focused on the abuse that some people have suffered at detention centres here in the UK – an issue Amnesty International has raised several times.

Nicketa-Lee DaCosta-Salmon, aged 14, from Harris Academy in Purley, won the lower secondary category for 11 to 14 year olds.  Nicketa-Lee’s article tackled an issue very personal to her – that of bullying.

This is another reminder to Amnesty International that campaign work on children's human rights cases is central to the growth of a sustainable human rights movement.  Young people are of course capable of understanding, researching and campaigning on complex adult human rights violations, but their passion and dedication – as this award demonstrates – is for the human rights violations that affect their peers.

Florence explained the reason behind her choice of topic:

“I’m an only child and we do talk about some interesting topics at home – I discussed it with my family and I decided I wanted to write something about detention centres.

“I wanted to find a child’s perspective of the story so when I found [11 year-old] Bethlehem Abate’s story I knew I wanted to write about her.

“While I was doing my research I found lots of other stories about children in detention centres, I found it really disturbing that people in the UK are not being educated properly instead they are being tortured. It’s heartbreaking.”

Florence’s mum, Gillian Potkins, added:

“I am very impressed by the way that Flo researched her report on the internet.

“She was very interested in telling the story of Bethlehem Abate because of the similarity in their age, and their very different experiences. 

Nicketa-Lee DaCosta-Salmon said: “I heard about the competition through my citizenship teacher Miss Lane. I wanted to write about bullying and how it has affected me because I think it’s important that people come forward about it.

“The bullying didn’t happen to me at Harris Academy but in four other institutions. I hope my article helps children get through it and helps them understand it, and come forward and address it.

“My article was read out in assembly and since then lots of pupils at my school have come up in the playground and asked how I decided to come forward and write about it. It can be hard to react to people knowing my story as it’s so personal. But I feel so upset and hurt when I hear about people’s human rights being broken. I’m so passionate about it.”

You can read more about the competition and the winners here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jun/01/human-rights-amnesty-competition-winners

Those of you who were at the AIUK AGM in April know that there was overwhelming support for more work on children's rights – but this is a plea that is continually sidelined once it reaches the upper echelons of the International Secretariat (IS).

The strategy for Amnesty International over the next few years includes upping the budget for our sections in developing countries – so we can 'grow' the global human rights movement. 

I would suggest that we do not ignore the voices of these young people – they are passionate about children's rights, and are obviously potential talented journalists, researchers and campaigners.  Children are, after all, the future.

More children's rights research and campaign work at Amnesty International's IS would work very well as a resource in the UK Citizenship curriculum, as well as as a strategy to grow support for human rights within our global sections.

Thanks for reading!

Helle :)

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