Rights Awareness Programme a hit with students
Rochelle James, project manager of the Rights Awareness Programme (RAP), was elated after receiving feedback from the more than 1,200 young human-rights advocates who were trained during the programme over the course of the year. These individuals received training in human rights and advocacy.
RAP is funded by the European Union and is jointly implemented by the British Council and RISE Life Management Services.
The highly interactive training period of more than 50 sessions incorporating skits, performances and group activities were designed to engage youth ages 16-25 and build their awareness of United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
Among the trained advocates were 53 deaf and 70 special-needs students.
"The aim was to make these youths understand simply that they have 30 rights that are afforded to them simply by being human. They are also given the opportunity to know that it is their responsibility not to infringe on the rights of others," James told The Gleaner.
She also stated that she believed everyone was susceptible to human-rights infringements in contemporary society.
"I don't necessarily believe that persons with special needs or those who are disabled should consider themselves to be anymore affected than anyone else. The simple truth of the matter is that they have a different set of concerns and sets of complaints," James stated.
"Everyone has their experiences in a different way and the reality is that regardless of what your situation is, as a person you are a human being first of all, and no matter what your ability or disability is you should enjoy all 30 of your human rights, she added.
She went on to note some of the concerns that were expressed by the deaf and special-needs students.
"They wanted to encourage their parents to make an effort to learn how to use sign language in order to speak to them because it would help them in improving their parenting skills," James said.
"Persons would also mock them simply because they were different but they acknowledged that this is not the case when they were at school because they are in a loving environment at school. So when that does happen in the outside world it's a strange thing to them, and they are more concerned about the persons doing this as it means the person is not as exposed as they are," she added.
James noted that the overall feedback has been great and the participants expressed a willingness to share their newly found knowledge with others in order to make a difference in the wider society.
"They weren't simply looking to what the government body or what any organisation can do. They want to make a difference themselves and teach their friends, peers and relatives to do the same," she said.