Written by Brunella (Class of 2020, Peru) and Valentina (Class of 2020, Colombia)
On Monday 10 December, UWC ISAK commemorated International Human Rights Day. Members of the Peace and Non-violence Forum organised the events as a part of their mission to educate themselves and the community about peace, conflict, and non-violence. United World Colleges use education as a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future: we believe that spending a day reflecting on human rights helps our community to connect with our school’s mission by recognizing the framework of human rights that exist to help us to achieve this shared peace. Organizing the day, we wanted to strike a balance between getting a deeper understanding of what human rights are, learned what we still have to do, contributing to protecting human rights, and, self-critically, thinking about some things that we take for granted that may not promote human rights.
The day started with a small reflection session held in the gym where students and faculty started a dialog about what human rights are. Some members of the community shared their answers to questions such as “What are human rights?” and “Why are they important?”. Coming to a common definition was not simple, and in fact a lot of interesting discussions took place.
Eventually, students and our faculty moved to the KAC to start the morning activities. A rotatory system allowed students to choose the activities they would like to take part on during the morning: simulations of situations related to Human Rights, workshops related to different rights, and open dialogue spaces where students could discuss the day’s experiences. Right before lunch, a school-wide session was held in the gym for students to collectively reflect on what human rights were and what they meant for our school.
Afterwards, the community was invited to participate in an activity called perspectives. Here, students from all around the world had an space to talk about issues that are currently taking place in their home countries and can represent human rights violations. Since we are a school which values diversity, the purpose of this activity was to demonstrate how a same situation can be understood from multiple perspectives. Thus, students from different backgrounds discussed political topics such as the Venezuelan crisis, external intervention in African countries and migration between Mexico and USA. The evening was kept more light: a movie screening and a dialogue night took place, offering some more spaces of reflection and discussion.
“I was very happy to see the whole community involved in this event. Though many students were busy (after all, it was the last week of the semester, and deadlines and tests were very close!), most of them gave their time and effort to the activities, taking an active role in the simulations, seminars and open discussions”.
“Organizing this event made me think, on a daily basis, of what human rights meant for me and for my community. The words human rights get thrown around a lot these days, and it is very easy for it to become just a random buzzword. For me, organizing the event meant rediscovering what could these rights mean and what could they encompass: in helping prepare the simulations and seminars I became aware of the stories of thousands of people around the world for whom these rights were not guaranteed, and who fought in every way possible to attain them. I hope that, along the day, the members of our school community became aware of these situations too — that they too rediscovered of what the word meant for them”.
As new G11 students, we were excited to start contributing to the school and the mission: this was going to be our first time organising an event for the entire school. We must admit it was a little intimidating to start planning something for the whole school, but conquering that fear is one of the reasons that we chose to do take on the responsibility. Organising something for everyone in the community, and planning this with a core group of six persons meant that we got to learn about compromise – but this time with a culturally diverse group of people. We were also very lucky to have support from many of the G12 students who worked on this event last year.
“One of the main difficulties we faced was to make the event both engaging and thoughtful. We wanted the activities to be challenging without them being offensive to any member of the community: as we are a extremely diverse school, the line distinguishing the daring from the offensive is drawn at massively different places”.
“When organizing this event we were really focused on making it as interesting and engaging as possible to our community. Human rights and their importance in all the world is a topic I feel passionate about and I really wanted to transmit that to other students. Organizing this day was definitely challenging because creating activities to raise awareness about topics like this a is difficult task. I feel one of the things I learned from this experience is how diverse our community is and how important this type of conversations can be. The conversations that started thanks to activities such as the simulations and perspectives should definitely continue outside spaces like this”
“We are looking forward to have more conversations like this in our community. I really think the richness of being in a UWC is having the opportunity to understanding a same issue from different sides. It would had been amazing to see more students participate in the organization of the day, as the whole experience would had been massively enriched by their input”.
Human Rights Day is one of five school-wide celebration days, on which we all come together to dive into different parts of our mission. The first day was UWC Day in September and the next celebration day will be International Day in January.