Alice Akca begun her internship with René Cassin at the Beginning of November 2019. She is currently studying a Master’s of Science in Bioethics at Kings College, London. Though from a background of science, Alice’s Kurdish-Turkish ethnicity has spurred her interest in human rights. She hopes to utilise what she has learnt at René Cassin in future policy and advocacy work.
My internship at René Cassin is coming to an end, as is 2019. The new year is a time when we reflect on back on our successes and failures over the last year and envision our hopes for the future. Interning at René Cassin has given me an invaluable insight into the interconnectedness of Jewish values, experiences and universal human rights, such as the need for solidarity and the importance of community engagement. As Eleanor Roosevelt expressed in 1958 “Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home.”
What I have taken from my time here
I started this internship with a passion for human rights, but not much experience. I also started this internship knowing little about the Jewish experience in the UK, though not obvious to me at the time. The Jewish values of compassion, community and courage are something I will take with me as I continue to advocate for human rights. René Cassin has taught me the importance of minorities standing together in a time where it seems the world is pulling us apart, thus we must protect the cherished values and experiences many of us share. Interning for René Cassin during the 2019 General Election campaign, I learnt to prioritise the need for action over words, positivity over negativity and appreciation over dismay. What happens now is most important, as 2020 is set to see a change to human rights in the UK. Over the last seven weeks I have observed the success of René Cassin’s CutItOut campaign, the annual Human Rights Shabbat and Modern Slavery Workshops. I have also witnessed the moral and timely response the organisation has had to the ongoing Uyghur crisis. Finally, I have had the pleasure of learning what it means to engage and empower the British Jewish community in the fight for universal justice.
What I hope to see for René Cassin
In 2020, I hope René Cassin continues to flourish with the support of their interns, volunteers, and continue in their endeavour to contribute to human rights education with even more interactive and inspiring events. It will be a significant year for the Human Rights Act, and I hope to see René Cassin at the forefront to make sure the human rights we cherish are protected. I hope to see continued collaboration with amazing partner organisations, whom together enable our small organisations to have a big voice in the fight for human rights. I hope to see more workshops that engage with younger members of the community, as values of kindness and tolerance are a part of our human nature and should be nurtured by future generations. I hope to see more blogs like this one, expressing real lived experiences of people from marginalised communities, in an effort to listen to each other more. I hope for more synagogues to join in on next year’s Human Rights Shabbat, a perfect time for reflection and raising awareness of the issues that affect us all in the UK. As 2020 marks the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, I also hope that, as the UK changes its relationship with the European Union, our conversations centre on what’s most important: how we treat each other, and champion human rights.