Student reporters and photographers to tackle human rights in national journalism competition

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Young writers and photographers are being urged to tackle human rights as part of a national competition. The Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year allows students to tackle a range of issues from bullying to the death penalty or child soldiers.

Young writers and budding photographers are being urged to tackle human rights issues as part of a national competition.

The Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year sees students tackling a wide range of issues, ranging from the death penalty, sexism and bullying to the use of tasers by the police and child soldiers in Africa.

Run by Amnesty International, the UK-wide competition is now open for and entries from primary, secondary and 6th form students with the grand finals taking place in May 2013. It is being supported by SecEd and the Guardian Teacher Network.

The written competition is open to students aged seven to 18 and is split into four categories (upper primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and 6th form).

Articles can be up to 500 words long and in English or Welsh. Entrants must write an article combining facts, opinion and reportage on a human rights issue of their choice.

The photojournalism competition is new for the 2013 competition and is open to students aged seven to 18. It is split into two awards (upper primary/lower secondary and upper secondary/6th form).

This year’s winners were unveiled in May and among the winning articles was a piece by Alice Reynolds, 13, from The Royal School in Haslemere, who wrote about Vietnamise labour camps.

Heather Booton, 16, from Skipton Girls’ High School won for a piece on women’s rights and abortion in Kenya, while Alice Woodhouse, 17, from Kings High School won for her piece on gypsy and traveller rights.

Heather said: “I was astonished to win. It was huge for me, especially as I really want to go into journalism. I would say to anyone that it’s definitely worth a shot. It’s was a brilliant day. I genuinely didn’t expect to win.”

Both Heather’s and Alice’s articles are published below.

Mike Blakemore from Amnesty International UK, said: “The competition has gone from strength to strength. Last year we had thousands of students take part from all four corners of the United Kingdom. And it is that success that encouraged us to add the new category.

“Each day images from places like Syria, Libya and Somalia surface that help inspire a new generation of human rights defenders into action. I look forward to seeing the images the budding photographers of tomorrow produce.

“Photographers and journalists play such an important role in exposing human rights abuses and hopefully this competition can inspire a new generation.”

The deadline for entries to the competition is February 18, with the top three entrants in each category invited to Amnesty’s headquarters for the national awards ceremony on April 30.

Full details, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/youngreporter

CAPTION: Write for rights: Among the winners of the Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year 2012 were (from left) Alice Reynolds, 13, Alice Woodhouse, 17, and Heather Booton, 16.

  

Heather Booton – Upper Secondary Winner 2012

Overdosing on malaria pills. Drinking bleach. Home-made “herbal concoctions”. Forcing bicycle spokes, knitting needles, water pipes, coat hangers, sticks and pens through the cervix. Anaesthetic? Unheard of.

If you are a pregnant Kenyan woman, living in poverty, this is your abortion. I am no doctor, but even I could tell you that these procedures are dangerous, excruciatingly painful and often fatal.

If you are a pregnant Kenyan woman, but lucky enough to be rich and educated, any number of private hospitals will carry out a safe and legal termination of a pregnancy for you.

Backstreet abortions claim the lives of at least 2,600 Kenyan women each year, and these figures don't include the scores of women who don’t dare seek medical care for fear of being arrested and jailed for up to 14 years if found guilty. A further 21,000 women are hospitalised for treatment of abortion-related complications. Unsurprisingly, Kenya's abortion fatality rates are nine times higher than for developed regions.

It is no coincidence that abortion rates are higher and procedures more unsafe in poorer countries generally, and Kenya is no exception. Lack of contraception and sex education, rape, sexual violence and prostitution as a means to combat poverty are all prevalent factors that contribute towards the myriad of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies that so many Kenyan women must face. They suffer, condemned to give birth to a child that they did not want nor can manage. But the real killer here is the law. The Kenyan law rules that abortion is illegal in nearly all cases, save for when the Mother's life is at risk, but the law is ambiguous.

Not even doctors are clear when it is or isn’t legal to terminate a pregnancy, leading to an unfair divide in the standards of health care available for the rich and poor.

How long can we allow the Kenyan government to deny necessary health care to those who need it most? How long are we prepared to let women, in desperate need of safe and legal abortions, rely on backstreet “professionals” to terminate their pregnancies? And how long do we continue to allow the thousands of easily preventable deaths destroy the poorest communities of Kenya?

 

Alice Woodhouse – Sixth Form Winner 2012

Human rights abuses have the stereotype of being seen to happen in some far flung corner of the world, or else occur in some kind of hidden underbelly of society. Yet they can, and do occur, almost literally in our back gardens.

Flamenco dancing as we know it owes much to the Gypsy and Roma community. Django Reinhardt, was a Belgian Sinto Gypsy and one of Europe's first great Jazz musicians. Gypsy culture is built upon strict codes of cleanliness learnt over centuries of life on the road. Concepts such as mokadi and mahrime provide strict guidelines, detailing, for example, on what objects can be washed in what bowls. And Gypsies have been present in Britain for at least 500 years.

Yet so many still seem to think of them as an invading, uncivilised, dirty force, setting out to wreck people’s livelihoods and their cultures. Evidence would seem to suggest that the attack comes from the opposite direction. Programmes such as Big Fat Gypsy Weddings have been criticised by people such as Roma author and teacher Dr Ian Hancock, and in the words of filmmaker Yale Strom: “When entertainment of any kind feeds the public's false stereotypical image of a particular ethnic, religious or racial group it only reinforces ignorance.”

This is exactly what such programmes do. More than this, one of the many victims to the cuts was the maintenance of official Traveller sites in Britain. But the main issue concerning the abuse of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights should perhaps be the common source of these abuses – a lack of knowledge and understanding from childhood about this culture. Casual racism and name calling may not seem to be such a major abuse of human rights, when far more dramatic horrors occur all over the world. But it is still abuse.

And it is right in front of us, in a so-called civilised society. A Children’s Society survey in 2007 found that eight out of 10 Gypsy and Traveller children have suffered racial abuse and almost two thirds have been bullied or physically attacked. Terms such as “Pikey” fall frighteningly easily from the lips of otherwise amiable people. And if cultural conception of an entire culture is affected by programmes and myths which seem to focus on the worst, it does not look as though either understanding or acceptance is going to make any headway.

An old Traveller woman and her husband come to our village sometimes, to sharpen blades for old clothes. Doors and windows shut in their faces, like something out of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Nazis killed about 25 per cent of European Roma. Of slightly less than a million before the war, up to 220,000 were killed. Yet as a culture we are developing. For the first time in British history, the March 2011 census acknowledged Gypsy, Roma and Traveller as a separate ethic group.   Perhaps equality is not too far away.

 


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