Jun 14 2010

Expansion to Five African Countries in 2009

Using the three phases and coalition team format developed in 2008, we expanded and fine-tuned the African Human Rights Leadership Campaign  again in 2009.  In four countries B Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Togo B  we were able to train and provide significant experience to some 200 young people in the dissemination and implementation of human rights principles in the face of deeply rooted government corruption, common delays and denials of access to justice, and seemingly hopeless cycles of youth violence in their respective countries. We also reached for the first time into Ethiopia, where we received equally enthusiastic response from a broad spectrum of youth organizations.

Through youth-created human rights public awareness campaigns, participating students reached at least 6,000 young people through local schools, community groups, and other gatherings. By word of mouth, these presentations easily reached double that total. 12,000 is conservative as some of the students took the initiative to go repeatedly on national radio with their message, thus potentially reaching millions more.

In this third annual round of competitions in our more established English-speaking countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, the nine teams (three coalition teams per country, 15 persons per team) selected timely human rights issues for their projects:

  • Liberia, Team A: corruption (government and business)
  • Liberia, Team B: armed robbery
  • Liberia, Team C, child trafficking
  • Sierra Leone, Team A: youth violence
  • Sierra Leone, Team B: access to justice
  • Sierra Leone, Team C: government corruption (in procurement of goods and services)
  • Ghana, Team A: government corruption
  • Ghana, Team B: student violence
  • Ghana, Team C: access to justice

These teams conducted their field research and community delivery between mid-April and mid-July, 2008. Again, the participants substantially exceeded the overall production targets, reaching 78 schools and youth groups (72 minimum target), forming 78 human rights clubs formed (63 minimum target), and  6,209 people through team human rights workshops (2,160 minimum target).

British Council, Freetown, 7 August 2009

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May 23 2010

Spirited, Expanded Leadership Competitions in 2008

From the lessons of the opening round in 2007, the African Human Rights Leadership Campaign organized and delivered a “second annual” cycle of human rights leadership competitions between March and August, 2008 in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Rather than pit school against school in each country (a format that had led to unfounded accusations of favoritism by losing schools in 2007), we divided the 30 participating students in Accra, Monrovia and Freetown respectively into two 15 person coalition teams. This enhanced the leadership challenge as each group, made up of spectrum of ambitious and aspiring “chiefs” from different schools and youth groups unfamiliar with each other, had to organize itself into a coordinated whole.

Diana Asima, competitor and speaker, Accra, Ghana, August, 2008

90 high school- and college-age students participated over the three countries. The competition required each team to choose a prevalent human rights abuse in its country or community, research the issue in the field, and to create and deliver an effective public awareness campaign to end that abuse.

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Feb 26 2010

African Human Rights Leadership Campaign Beginnings, 2006-2007

The African Human Rights Leadership Campaign began in 2006 with the help in particular of young 20-something activists Jay Yarsiah in Liberia and Sammy Jacobs Abbey in Ghana. We started with the notion that Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) could help young people make a difference in post-conflict zones, and in broader Africa, using human rights education materials that cut across cultural and literacy divides.

Joseph Yarsiah, Monrovia, Liberia human rights education workshop, November, 2006

Those YHRI materials include the Thirty Rights DVD, a series of one minute youth-oriented visual stories, each portraying an article of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR). YHRI-published booklets and lesson plans on the UDHR complement the piece.  Inside of a half-hour, that video alone can kick-off an understanding and enthusiasm on the breadth of the Universal Declaration, the first international document defining human dignity and social justice.  Yet, we had no clear path from there to a meaningful educational process for youth in countries with limited resources and very challenging circumstances.

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Feb 11 2010

MAKING GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS A FACT, SKIPPING THE FANTASY

With human rights abuses commonplace, the 21st Century is emerging as the make-or-break climax of relations between the “have” and “have not” nations of the world.  While the planet is drawn tighter by instantaneous electronic communications, over one billion people live in extreme poverty, on a daily thread between life and death. It is a monument then to Mankind’s tenacious survival urge that only an estimated eight-plus million die each year as they are too poor to stay alive.  Ref.: The End of Poverty, Sachs, J. (2006).

The African Human Rights Leadership Campaign, a pilot project of Youth for Human Rights International, is a growing initiative designed to inspire and equip young people to create futures worth living in their communities and countries.

From the Ruins is a short film on this human rights work to date, shot and directed by Ian Jay.

Started in 2006 between young Liberian activist Jay Yarsiah, his Ghanaian counterpart Sammy Jacobs Abbey, and a somewhat wide-eyed American lawyer new to West Africa (me), the Campaign enjoyed its most successful year in 2009.

The training experience is through competitions between teams made up of coalitions of young people from various local senior high schools, colleges and other groups. Each team vies for creation and delivery of the most effective public awareness campaign on a chosen human rights abuse issue. To a person, team members regard any common violation of human rights a matter of their responsibility, not detached observation.

For 2009 — in four African countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Togo B some 200 young people now have training and significant experience in the dissemination and implementation of human rights principles in the face of deeply rooted government corruption, common delays and denials of access to justice, and seemingly hopeless cycles of youth violence in their respective countries. Among other results and with the help of local professional editors, the student teams produced nine short documentary films on such African human rights issues.  We also reached for the first time into Ethiopia, where the Campaign received equally enthusiastic response from a broad spectrum of youth human rights advocates and organizations.

We are now planning the Campaign’s coming 18 months of expanding human rights advocacy training, through August, 2011.  This Campaign not only has the makings to help Africa but also the potential to assist in educational innovations that can make global human rights a reality.  Please stay tuned.