15th November 2019 — On Tuesday 5th November just under 300 students and teachers gathered at Talbot Heath School for the first ever Amnesty Schools’ Human Rights Conference. Students represented twenty different secondary schools from across Dorset and Hampshire to hear about current Human Rights issues and take part in workshops and direct action.
Students heard first from Peter Radford, a Dorset-based Amnesty Speaker and ex-teacher, who challenged delegates to realise the power they each have to defend the human rights of others in everyday situations as well as to raise awareness and engage others in challenging injustice. The conference was delighted to hear from Rebecca Ratcliffe, the sister-in-law of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe currently detained by authorities in Iran. Rebecca shared the trauma of the past three and a half years for their family and the joy at recently being reunited with Nazanin’s daughter Gabriella.
Students were able to choose from a range of workshops on offer on issues such as Climate Change, Modern Slavery, LGBT+ Rights, Women’s Rights and the Refugee Crisis. Headteacher of host school Talbot Heath, Angharad Holloway commented, “It is more important than ever, during these uncertain times, to stress the importance of universal human rights. I am delighted that Talbot Heath School is hosting this significant regional conference for young people.”
Harriet, a sixth form student at Talbot Heath commented, “It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people with the same drive for change. I was educated about issues I had no idea were happening and the speakers showed that everyone has the power to make a difference. I left feeling so motivated and inspired.”
The conference closed with a session led by Amnesty South West Speaker Coordinator Tom Wilson giving students the practical tools and strategies to take what they had heard, go back to their schools and make a difference.
Next week the conference moves to Somerset, hosted by Wells Cathedral School. It is hoped that these conferences will become annual events around the country. However, they started here in Dorset!