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UK: Youth activists in training to rise up and defend human rights

Amnesty and The Co-operative Bank back young human rights defenders with 'Rise Up' training programme

In its second year, the course teaches youth activists how to achieve social change in their local communities

Call for young activists to join Rise Up – applications for 2022 are now open

‘It is Amnesty’s abiding belief that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders we need here and now’ - Sacha Deshmukh

Young activists hailing from all corners of the UK are taking part in Amnesty International UK’s ‘Rise Up’ youth activism training programme, supported by The Co-operative Bank. 

The year-long campaigning and advocacy training programme equips young activists with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make positive change happen in their communities.

Now in its second year, the Rise Up programme has a growing alumni base with participants across the UK continuing their campaigns. 

One of the alumni participants, Sophie Kabangu, took a huge first step in organising a Black Lives Matter protest in her local town in Essex. She said:

“The way the system works has to change. People are listening and I’m hopeful because people my age and younger are finally using their voices.

“Since our peaceful protests, we have made great impact and on a personal level, I’ve been working vigorously to be part of the change by curating an exhibition last black history and delivering anti-racism workshops to schools in the local area. I’ve now finished my masters so I will make time to focus on the change that needs to happen in my local community.”

The passionate young human rights defenders are currently undergoing in-depth training and receiving support to help develop their own campaigns and drive change on the issues that matter to them. These include women’s rights, LGBTI issues, refugee rights, discrimination, and climate change.

One of this year’s participants, Natasha Mulenga - a Zambian student from Manchester - is campaigning to educate, empower, and tackle sex trafficking and sexual abuse of women and children. Natasha’s campaign involves raising awareness and working with local and national transportation institutions to spot the signs of modern slavery. The first city of interest is Greater Manchester with an aim go to national with their campaign at a later date.

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO at Amnesty International UK, said:

The unique one-year Rise Up training course has brought young people from across the country to deliver the change they want to see - and there’s no doubt that they are making their mark. 

“Covid has proven a huge challenge for young people over the last couple of years - their lives have been vastly disrupted, but that hasn’t stopped them from persisting in their activism. That is why we have programmes such as Rise Up – it’s an important space for them to come together with other likeminded young people.

“Alongside The Co-operative Bank, we will continue to train young people to rise up and defend their human rights in the UK.

“It is Amnesty’s abiding belief that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders we need here and now.”

Nick Slape, Chief Executive Officer of The Co-operative Bank, said:

“Our customers continually tell us that supporting human rights and equality is important to them which is why we are so proud of our long-standing partnership with Amnesty International UK.

“For the past two years we have been delighted to support their Rise Up programme, helping empower young people in the UK to be the change-makers of the future.

“The young people involved in the programme have so much passion to make the world a better and fairer place and we are excited to follow their journey as the new generation of human rights activists, driving positive change across our communities."

Comprehensive curriculum

The curriculum below guides the young activists to achieve social change:

Building your base: An introduction to the programme, exploration of human rights and participant’s own role in achieving change.

The change you want to see: A strategic campaigns approach exploring how to identify goals, develop a strategy and understand participant’s own influence in their communities.

The tools you need: Training in the tactics needed to achieve positive human rights change - from working with the media, to digital skills, political engagement and creative practices.

Action planning: A workshop on how to create personal action plans and trial some of the skills participants have developed.

Wave in youth activism

The past few years have seen an unprecedented wave of activism from young people across the world in response to the climate emergency facing our planet, racial justice, gender rights and much more.

Amnesty believes in the importance of supporting and expanding the space for greater youth-led engagement and participation, both within the organisation and externally.

Across the UK, Amnesty youth and student activists campaign and fundraise together for human rights in 500 schools and sixth form colleges and over 100 university campuses.

To follow the Rise Up programme, visit

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