Inspiring Young Advocates: Bridging the Gap Between Awareness and Action

On 11 December 2023, the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) marked Human Rights Day 2023 and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with parliamentarians from across the UK in the House of Lords. At the heart of the event were the team from ATD’s Youth Voices project (Kaydence Drayak, Auriela Drayak and Tiegan Boyens), alongside other community groups. Below is an account of the event by Lyle Barker, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Researcher at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre.

Imran Khan KC, human rights lawyer and BIHR trustee, led a dynamic event celebrating a year of wins in the fight for human rights. From blocking the UK Government’s Rights Removal Bill to championing the Human Rights Act, it was a rallying cry for justice. Speakers from diverse backgrounds, including the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the community groups, highlighted the urgent need for accessible resources to empower all, especially vulnerable groups like children and young people, those with learning disabilities, and migrants.

Real-world scenarios

“This resource was designed for young people by young people. We wanted to create a resource that empowers young people, and we believe the first step for that is through knowledge. We hope that through this document young people will be supported to protect and uphold their rights.”

– Youth Voices project, ATD UK

Amidst this inspiring atmosphere, Tiegan, Aurelia, and Kaydence, representing the Youth Voices project of ATD Fourth World, took the stage to share their advocacy journey. Drawing from their experience, they underscored the necessity of creating a dedicated resource tailored specifically for children and young people. This guide will serve a dual purpose: firstly, to ensure that children and young people are aware of their human rights; and secondly, to provide actionable steps they can take to effectively challenge decision-makers and assert their rights in real-world scenarios.

“I’m really proud to have worked with the BIHR on this resource which empowers both the understanding and application of human rights. By explaining not only what human rights are but also how to protect them, human rights become an active and useful tool to fight for dignity and justice.”

– Aurelia Drayak, lived-experience activist, ATD UK

The right to family life

The guide gives a big picture view of the UK Human Rights Act 1998. It explains how the law works and what responsibilities it gives to people who work for the government. It also talks about the rights that individuals have under this law. Plus, it goes into detail about some specific parts of the law, showing how people can use their rights effectively.

“I am really happy that we created a resource that highlights that under the Human Rights Act everyone has a right to family life. I think it is a right that can be overlooked despite being so important. Hopefully by creating more awareness and understanding of the right to family life, people can be empowered to make sure this right is respected for themselves and those around them.”

– Kaydence Drayak, lived-experience activist, ATD UK

A guide accessible for all

Making sure everyone can understand the guide is really important. That is why the Youth Voices team have made sure there is a simpler version of each section called the “Easy Read” version. You will see QR codes next to the titles, and if you scan them with your phone, you can easily access the Easy Read version. The team have also put links to these simpler versions at the end of the guide to help everyone navigate and understand the information better.

“For me, it was important to have a resource that supported young people in understanding their human rights, as it is such a crucial element for a young person to have the best day-to-day life experience. However the information is not always available for them in an accessible way, as knowing your human rights is taken for granted. Something I really wanted this document to be is accessible for young people but also for everyone, by using pictures, colours and accessible layout.”

– Tiegan Boyens, lived-experience activist, ATD UK

A catalyst for action

The full guide is now available here, and we encourage all children and young people to use it to talk about and claim their rights.

“It’s been an honour working alongside this team of young people with lived experience of poverty and other human rights violations. Seeing how they transform their difficult experiences into a drive and passion for change has been truly inspirational. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity the BIHR has given us to work in collaboration with these young people to create an essential tool for all young people.”

– Eva Carrillo, project officer, ATD UK

As we contemplate the importance of this event and the release of this guide to drive change, our goal is for this guide to serve as a source of empowerment, inspiring a passion for advocacy among children and young people across the UK. Let’s leverage this event and guide as a catalyst, working together to close the divide between awareness and action, cultivating an atmosphere where a new generation of human rights defenders can boldly and
efficiently advocate for justice.