From reporting to photography, campaigning to song-writing – the fight for human rights can take many forms, something the new-look Amnesty Youth Awards aim to celebrate.
Students with a passion for human rights are being invited to enter the 2014 awards using their medium of choice – written journalism, photo-journalism or music. Amnesty Youth Groups, many of which are based in schools, are also being invited to put themselves forward for a range of awards recognising campaigning and fundraising activities.
SecEd has supported Amnesty’s student awards since they began life as a standalone writing competition four years ago. This year, the awards expanded as photo-journalism and song-writing were introduced. Now for 2014 there are five categories – reporting, photography, song-writing, campaigning and fundraising.
SecEd supports Amnesty’s awards alongside the Guardian Teacher Network and in the last four years thousands of students have entered, with their work tackling a wide range of human rights issues – from bullying and sexual discrimination to child soldiers, forced marriage and specific cases of human rights abuses around the world.
Last year, the reporting and photo-journalism categories saw entries from 2,500 students from across 200 schools. Here are the details of the 2014 awards, entries for which open next week.
Reporter of the Year
The original youth award goes from strength to strength and will once again be challenging budding young reporters to use their journalism and writing skills to help the fight for human rights.
Students aged from 7 to 18 are asked to produce a piece of journalism tackling a human rights issue of their choice. The piece must include both factual reporting as well as insight and analysis and have “news value” and good use of engaging language.
There are separate awards for key stage 2, 3 and 4 as well as a 6th form/further education category.
Among the secondary winners in the 2013 awards was a report by Victoria Coleman, 14, from Mayfield Grammar School in Kent, who wrote about the abuse of women’s rights across the world.
Zaahid Rahman, 15, from Cranbrook School in Essex, also won for his harrowing report into female genital mutilation, while in the 6th form category, Holly Gomez, 16, from Woodfarm High in East Renfrewshire, Scotland, won for a report on North Korea’s work camps. Extracts from their winning entries are published, below.
Photographer of the Year
The judges in this section of the Amnesty Youth Awards are looking for photographs that “make people care” rather than technical expertise.
Photographs must capture a human rights issue that the young person is passionate about.
The photo-journalism award was held for the first time in 2013 when the only secondary winner was Nancy Cofie from The Charter School in south London, for her depiction of homelessness in the capital.
Nancy, now 17, said: “This competition has really helped me and my confidence in photography. If you are aspiring to be a photographer you should definitely take the chance.”
This section of the awards is also being supported by PhotoVoice – the Hackney-based international photography charity.
Brandon Block, Amnesty UK’s human rights education manager, said: “Photographers play a vital role in shining a spotlight on the appalling human rights abuses that happen every day across the globe.”
Songwriter and Performer
Held for the first time in 2013, this section of the awards is designed around the power of protest songs and performance.
After learning about the history of protest songs, students are invited to write their own lyrics about an issue they care about, with lesson plans and resources available from Amnesty.
Entrants can choose to write lyrics without any music or they can record a song as an MP3 or video. The age categories are 7 to 14 and also 15 to 18.
Earlier this year, the inaugural winner was a quartet from Truro College in Cornwall called Gypsy’s Anchor, while the lyrics award went to 15-year-old Isla Ratcliff from the Edinburgh Music School.
Isla’s winning song, Death Row, tackled the death penalty and focuses on the case of Troy Davis, who was executed by lethal injection in 2011 despite significant doubts over his original conviction. Gypsy’s Anchor, meanwhile, wrote Full Score, which compares young people’s life in the UK with life as a child soldiers.
Human Rights Campaigners
This section of the awards recognises the work of Amnesty Youth Groups across the UK, many of which are based in schools and organised by students and teachers. The awards seek to celebrate the impact of their campaigns on the students themselves and their school communities.
Categories include best new group, best campaign activity, and the inspiring group leader award, which is open for teachers or students who have displayed outstanding commitment to their groups. The “most committed” award is for groups that have taken part in a wide range of campaign activities over a long time. For more on setting up a youth group, see www.amnesty.org.uk/youth
Fundraisers of the Year
The final category is aimed at students and schools which take on fundraising activities in aid of Amnesty International’s human rights work. Categories include the most creative fundraising, a special achievement award recognising smaller groups or groups operating in challenging circumstances, and a most effective award for groups which raise the most. For more about how to fundraise for Amnesty and resources to help schools, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/youthfundraise
How to get involved
Resources are available for schools, teachers and students to help them introduce the various aspects of the Amnesty Youth Awards 2014.
Entries open across all categories on Friday, October 11, and close on February 17, 2014. Full details are available on the Amnesty Youth Awards website, including terms and conditions.
For more information on entering, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/youthawards and to access Amnesty’s education resources, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/education
Extracts from the Young Reporter of the Year 2013
Victoria Coleman (lower secondary winner, 2013): "I am tortured. I am starved. I am terrorised. I am not treated fairly. I am the victim of rape. I am on the receiving end of violence. I am forced into doing things that I don’t want to do. I am discriminated against. I am forced to give birth to HIV-infected children. My name’s Abena and I am a woman. This young woman is one of the millions who are discriminated against daily purely for being female. Even though women do two-thirds of the world’s work, they receive merely 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the means of production. This is due to gender inequality."
Zaahid Rahman (upper secondary winner, 2013): "In areas with considerable immigrant populations in the UK, awareness should be raised of FGM as around 20,000 girls are at risk in Britain and France. Too often is it the case that unsuspecting girls are sent on ‘holidays’ with family where FGM is carried out abroad. Though France employs a tougher protocol in actively examining potential victims on return, Britain continues to hide behind the curtain of cultural sensitivity. As a result of this around 100 convictions linked to FGM have been made in France whereas absolutely none have been made in Britain, despite a total of 82 incidents being reported to Scotland Yard. Since its outlawing in 1985, the practice has a paltry sentence of 14 years attached to it for inflicting permanent damage."
Holly Gomez (6th form winner, 2013): "Witnessing a six-year-old beaten to death for eating corn, being hung upside down on a coal fire and having a knuckle chopped off for dropping a sewing machine. Is this the reality for prisoners of North Korea’s modern day concentration camps? Yes. However, “No” is the answer from the North Korean authorities who consistently deny their very existence. The ghost prisoner Shin Dong-hyuk, along with 200,000 others, go through these traumatic ordeals on a daily basis." CAPTION: Powerful: Nancy Cofie, from The Charter School won the 2013 Young Photographer of the Year with her image depicting homelessness (top), fellow Charter student Stephanie Piedra was a runner-up for her portrayal of domestic violence (above)