Amnesty rocks with the voices of a new generation
Amnesty celebrated a new generation of human rights journalists, photographers, songwriters and performers at today’s Young Human Rights Reporter and Protest Song competition award ceremony in London. Young people from across the UK proved the power of their voices, expressing themselves on human rights issues ranging from bullying, to the death penalty, women’s rights in Afghanistan and North Korea’s ‘ghost prisoners’.
“It’s such an honour to have been part of this competition,“ said Holly Gomez from Woodfarm High School, Scotland who went on to win Sixth Form Reporter of The Year. “I wrote about North Korean political prisoners and it was difficult to find information because it is kept in so much secrecy. I hope that my article means more people get to hear about the problems and become interested and research it for themselves. It is so important that young people become more aware of human rights issues because they will be the ones dealing with them when they grow up.”
The talented young journalists and photojournalists, and their proud teachers and parents, spent the morning at the Guardian offices producing front pages featuring their work, whilst back at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre the sound checking protest song shortlistees received a surprise visit from actor Ricky Norwood, who plays FatBoy in Eastenders. The winners were revealed at the afternoon’s glittering awards ceremony, hosted by former-Newsround presenter Sonali Shah and featuring extracts of winning articles, stunning live protest song performances and a special guest performance by competition judge Kate Tempest.
Upper Primary and Lower Secondary Photojournalist of the Year Eve Wilson, 10, from Laugharne School, Wales hoped that winning would make a real difference: “My photo is of someone being bullied in the playground because they’re paralysed. To a young girl or boy bullying feels like the end of the world but it’s not and I hope my photo will get people talking about it more.”
Liliana Newsam-Smith from Rhodes Avenue Primary School was named Upper Primary Reporter of the Year and had been inspired by another remarkable young activist: “I wrote about girls’ education and focused on Malala Yousefzai. It enraged me to find out that some girls don’t have education. That should change. I’m just so happy now that the message will go around now and people will know more about it. ”
Isla Ratcliff, from The City of Edinburgh Music School was awarded the Protest Song Competition Lyrics prize for her song Death Row: “I‘ve always been against the death penalty and when I originally came up with the melody I wanted to use it to talk about that. A few days earlier Troy Davis was executed so I decided to tell his story. I wanted the song to have meaning and I hope it will raise awareness of the death penalty - we don’t have it in the UK so it’s easy to forget it still happens in lots of other countries and it’s important we are aware of that.”
The band Gypsy’s Anchor from Truro + Penwith College were crowned Protest Song Performance and Overall Winners for their song Full Score.
“Our song is about the contrast in the lives of a child soldier in the Congo and a Western child with all kinds of disposable things,” said singer Beth Penrose. “There is so much going on in the world and we are so sheltered here. It’s easy to forget other people out there with big problems.”
Fellow singer Mica Smith agreed: “It was amazing to win, we were really shocked. It’s not every day a little band from Cornwall gets an opportunity like this. We will remember it forever.”
The Upper Secondary Reporter award went to Zaahidur Rahman, from Cranbrook School, Ilford who was clear about the importance of young people’s voices being heard; “It’s really important that we get a new generation of human rights reporters. Now with social media it is even easier to get information so we have even more responsibility to write about human rights abuses all over the world.”
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.