‘A pivotal moment in my life’ – a work experience student describes her week at René Cassin

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Hilary joined us for a week’s work experience in July 2018. She came expecting photocopying and coffee-making. Instead she got her “own personal enlightenment”

These are her impressions of René Cassin and its work:

Though it has only been a week I can safely say that my experience here at René Cassin has been a pivotal moment in my life. It is truly amazing how such a short period of time can change your whole perspective on the life you and those around you lead. Walking into the office on my first I had prepared myself for the average week of work experience, filled with the mundane activities of photocopying and making coffee, but from the moment I stepped into the office I was made part of the René Cassin team. I was given work that I felt was valuable and allowed me to simultaneously help the cause, but also to absorb knowledge and open my eyes to the reality of the world around me.

This immersion into the field of human rights was like my own personal enlightenment. I had always been interested in law and, prior to this experience, I prided myself with knowing the facts; I have a right to free trial, I am always innocent until proven guilty, but like most people, I never paused to think about the reason behind these certainties. I had never asked why? Why do I have a right to life? What allows me to receive education without paying? René Cassin showed me the why. I was guided through all the events from World War Two to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the European Charter of Rights, a picture was painted for me as I became aware of the toils and troubles behind each brush stroke. The work René Cassin does, not just for the rights of Jews, but for the rights of asylum seekers and Roma Travellers is so admirable because they have taken into account the Jewish experiences and now use these tools in order to prevent the same from happening to others. It is truly heart-warming and inspiring to see a group which has previously been ostracised by society, hold hands with those whose human rights are now being challenged, standing strong in the face of adversity. What I found particularly tangible with René Cassin was the awareness that the struggles of the Jewish community throughout time and especially during the monstrosities of the Second World War are inextricably linked with the human Rights we have today. This revelation was the epitome of bittersweet; I have finally begun to fully comprehend the extent of the importance of our human rights, at the precise time that Britain is teetering on the verge of a human rights grey area.

As part of my work experience at René Cassin I was lucky enough to attend a gender and equality post-Brexit forum in Parliament. This was an incredible opportunity as I was placed right at the heart of the discussion as various intellectuals explored the possible human rights turmoil that could be caused as the effects of Brexit unravel. The forum was extremely thought-provoking as it focused the effects of Brexit not solely on the issues that, listening to the Prime Minister’s questions would appear to be of ‘paramount significance’, but rather on the reality that as we move on from the European Union we will also be leaving behind the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. This is worrying as the Charter uniquely includes employment rights and maternity leave rights, meaning that Brexit, regardless of whether it will mean a step forward for trade and businesses, at this moment in time, appears to be a step back with regards to human rights and equality protections. The problem is that the average person, like me only a few days ago, might not be aware of this danger, which is why René Cassin’s work is crucial in this respect. I cannot commend their work enough, as their incessant campaigning for the preservation of our integral human rights have improved, and will continue to improve, the lives of countless individuals.