What do human rights mean to you?

Today is Human Rights Day – a moment to reaffirm the importance of human rights in building the world we want. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought particular challenges in 2020 as Civicus Monitor reports that some governments have been using the pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on free speech, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. There have been widespread job losses, a loss of access to education for many and a surge in gender-based violence. Reflecting this, the theme of Human Rights Day 2020 is Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights with the UN urging governments and individuals to focus on the need to build back better and ensure Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.

Human Rights Day is observed annually on December 10th – marking the adoption by The United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, we at RNW Media are marking the day as the climax of our 6-month online campaign #MyStoryForAStory (#MijnStoryVoorEenStory). As an international organisation based in the Netherlands and working with and for young people in restrictive settings to use media for social change, we want Dutch youth to understand the challenges our target audiences face when it comes to exercising the rights they take for granted. To be able to vote safely, to express opinions freely, to access safe contraception, to demonstrate and to criticise government decisions. Ultimately our aim is to generate a demand for Dutch government policies and actions that support global development efforts to tackle those challenges.

What are human rights?
Five Dutch Instagram influencers are today sharing a video message from four of our colleagues around the world saying what human rights mean to them. They are asking their followers to share these stories further on their own social media accounts to show their support for the human rights of their peers around the world. Those messages are:

To me human rights mean having a job.
To me human rights mean knowing how to have safe and pleasurable sex.
To me human rights mean all people have the ability to express themselves freely.
To me human rights mean being able to make a change in the world through my storytelling and campaigning.

These statements reflect the priorities of our different programmes and platforms, as we believe that young people must be able to claim their rights to freedom of expression, association, information and economic inclusion, and their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in order to fulfil their aspirations and lead satisfying lives.

Access, engage and discuss
Our Citizens’ Voice programme works with local teams of young media makers – bloggers, vloggers, cartoonists, photographers, musicians and storytellers – to create and maintain digital platforms and communities. These are safe, alternative civic spaces where young women and men from across political, ethnic, racial, regional or religious divides can come together in a way which is often impossible in the offline space.  Young people can access and engage with pluralistic, reliable information and perspectives on sociocultural norms and values, youth needs and aspirations. They can discuss what is important to them, collectively envision the future, and connect to influential actors.

Happy, healthy sex
Sex and relationships have a huge impact on young people’s lives, but religion, politics, gender norms and other social pressures mean there is often a lack of effective communication around sex and sexuality which affects young people’s well-being – both mental and physical. RNW Media has been working on SRHR for young people since we launched the Love Matters programme in India in 2011. Love Matters and its pleasure-positive approach to love sex and relationships has flourished to become a collaborative global network with platforms in seven countries. In some highly conservative societies where the Love Matters approach is not the best way to achieve our goals, we have incorporated SRHR on dedicated channels within our existing Citizens’ Voice platforms.

Economic inclusion
Decent jobs and income are essential if young people are to participate fully in their societies and realise their potential. Barriers to youth participation in the labour market include poor education, lack of skills and a mismatch of skills. Our In the Works programme aims to address these barriers, with a specific focus on young women. In the Works uses online and offline interventions to focus specifically on connecting talent with opportunity, skills development, youth entrepreneurship and advocating for changes to the policies and practices that impact young people’s economic and working lives.

Media for change
Access to reliable, unbiased information is essential if people are to be able to make informed decisions about their lives and their societies and a free, independent media is vital to make that possible. Our RNTC training centre has more than 50 years of experience in delivering accredited courses to media-makers around the world. As well as journalists, bloggers and media professionals, RNTC offers tailor-made trainings to NGOs to build their capacity to communicate their ideas more effectively and use media for social change. RNTC goes beyond traditional journalism and media training, combining powerful theory, based on persuasive storytelling, rigorous professional practice and creative innovation. Working in this ground-breaking way, RNTC builds the foundation for media work with a lasting impact.

Our influencers
The influencers we have been working with during the #MyStory campaign are Dutch television presenter and broadcaster Geraldine Kemper, a committed activist on a range of equality and justice initiatives. Milou Deelen fights for equal rights for women, addressing issues such as slut shaming, women‘s empowerment, politics, abortion and sexuality. Linda de Munck believes it’s vital for young people to talk openly about sexuality and uses social media to discuss love, sex and relationships in an honest, non-judgemental way. Naomie Pieter is a queer and anti-racist activist whose work centers on making space for the intersections of those communities. She has been a driving force in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the Netherlands.  Sahil Amar Aïssa is a Dutch actor, columnist, presenter and activist. Born in Morocco, he believes his generation is the one that needs to speak out and bring about change within the Muslim community and beyond.

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