By: Guest blogger Novlet Levy
On Saturday 14th September, the Human Rights Tour stopped off in Swansea, welcomed by a spirited and diverse group of young people who were all keen to learn more about human rights and to express some of the concerns they had about human rights and the issues that affect them as young people. The event was hosted alongside the Wales Observatory on the Human Rights of Children and Young People – an organisation that prides itself in its commitment to supporting children and young people to access their rights.
At the beginning most of the young people said that they had less knowledge of children’s rights than they had of human rights generally. Nevertheless, a thorough presentation from the Wales Observatory representative made sure that the young people left knowing about the foundations of the rights that protect children and exactly what those rights are!
As the day went on, discussions became more and more comprehensive. One young person raised the issue of conflicting rights, asking whether a child can use Article 31 of the Convention of the rights of the child (the right to rest, play and leisure) to avoid going to school which is also a right in the convention (Article 28). The question gave the facilitators the opportunity to reinforce the idea of balancing rights and recognising the importance of certain rights in proportion to others, which all the young people agreed was crucial.
Amongst all the interesting and stimulating discussions of the day, the highlight was definitely the ‘What do you think?’ session where the young people were given the opportunity to present what they believed to be the key human rights issues for young people in the UK today, but also what changes they think should be made. The group was split up into three smaller groups and given different issues to discuss. These included; young people and education, young people and care and young people and discrimination. There were loads of thoughts and suggestions from the young people, many of them thought provoking. Here are a few examples:
– The opinions of young people should be given greater weight when decisions about their own care are being made.
– Behavioural units (for young people excluded from school) are a good thing but there should be more of them equipped with staff that have undergone intensive training and are able to encourage children in a positive way.
– That disabled children should be listened to more as they have different experiences and see things from a different perspective.
Attending and observing the Swansea Human Rights Tour event reinforced to me the extent to which the views of young people and children have so much more to contribute to the development and protection of our human rights laws within the UK. The British Institute of Human Rights in partnership with the Wales Observatory organised an event that was a huge success and fulfilled its aim of raising the awareness of Human Rights law in the UK and expressing just how relevant they are for young people and children.