Young human rights activists from 12 European countries met in Copenhagen on 8th and 9th October, under the drive of Gregory Christensen, for a human rights conference organized by Youth for Human Rights Denmark.
The conference (which was generously sponsored by the Danish Ministry of Culture) was centered around the rights of children and the youth learned about human rights problems of discrimination, racism and barriers to education from experienced human rights advocates as well as from youth working with human rights awareness initiatives all around Europa. The conference was open to the public and was attended by both physical guests as well as online participants, who could get inspiration on possible solutions to these human rights problems.
The founder of Youth for Human Rights International, Mary Shuttleworth, welcomed the audience by telling that the purpose of Youth for Human Rights is to teach youth about human rights, especially the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And she said: ”Youth for Human Rights International is doing exactly that to inspire youth to become advocates of tolerance and peace.”
She was followed by lawyer, influencer and founder of the company She for She, Mary Consolate Namagambe, who told how it was to come to Denmark from Uganda at the age of 9 and how it had not always been easy to find her way in a totally different culture. But time has taught her how to use her experience to stand up for her rights and one of her recommendations for how to create better understanding between people was: ”Everyone should have the right to define who they are, isn’t that the freedom of expression? We have to come to terms with our own prejudices.”
Associate professor of history of religion from Southern Danish University, Tim Jensen, gave his perspective on how he works scientifically with the understanding of religions and how good and diverse education of religion can prevent prejudice. Therefore he stresses a broad and neutral education of religion in schools. He stated: ”Religious education based on a scientific study of religions might result in a promotion of human rights and freedom of religion.”
Also another speaker, Saiqa Razi, founder of EQRA, Non-formal Digital Schools centered her address on the importance of good education, not only on the right to education but on the right to equal education. She is working in both Pakistan and Denmark on increasing both the quality of educational facilities and of education as such and she took the audience through a descriptive pictural travel in both countries. She concluded: ”For me happiness is a basic right and I’m working on that because if children are happy and are given nice childhood experiences, they are going to be better human being later on. If you through the equal right to education plant the seeds of love and care, it will lead to no urge to harm, discriminate or hate as adults.”
The Swedish lawyer and human rights activist, Nafiye Bedirhanoglu, also told her personal story of arriving in Sweden as a refugee from Kurdistan. She went through law school and became the first in her family to get an academic education. Today she has her own law firm, something that would have been unthinkable, had she not been granted asylum in Sweden. She stressed the importance of education again and again and ended off with saying: ”The world is a beautiful place and I just think we need to work at making it an even more beautiful place by creating it into a place where human rights exists.”
Education was also the center piece of the presentation from the director of Youth for Human Rights Denmark, Gregory Christensen. He went through the associations work in Denmark over the last 15 years, where human rights education to youth has been the main focus of the activities. He presented Youth for Human Rights’ educational properties and explained how quality human rights education is very needed, as 44% of the Danish school children can not name a single human right. ”In Denmark it is mandatory for the teachers to teach the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With these materials we are helping the teachers by giving them something with which they can easily show all the 30 human rights to young people. And through our work we have so far reached something like 30% of all basic schools in Denmark. And our ambition is to reach all of them.”
Long term human rights activist and minority spokesperson, Bashy Quraishy, from the European Network Against Racism shared his perspective on the way the Danish social systems are dealing with issues in regards to the removal of children from immigrant families. He covered how the rights of the child are not always upheld and which consequences this can have and he pointed out: ”I hope that a humanistic and democratic society like Denmark will live up to its own responsibilities and abide by the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child.”
An amazing performance from the musician, Luna Ersahin, put an extra dimension into the event and as part of her performance, she shared that making music has become her way of taking her right back to be exactly who she is. Addressed to the audience she said: ”I admire you all so much for standing up for human rights. You all get people to feel good and feel included and valuable. Thank you for that!”
The conference continued the next day for the 35 delegates from around Europe, where they participated in three workshops on quality human rights education and a street event to create sustainable awareness in the grassroots.
At the end of the two days, the delegates made plans for how to expand the human rights educational activities, when they get back to their respective home countries and they formed a network to continue to inspire each other and exchange ideas also in the future. They all agreed that this kind of conferences should be done again in the future.