By Maya Zarach
My first day began with an introduction into the workings of René Cassin and the values that underpin its campaigns. The powerful nature of these campaigns and the underlying theme of Jewish values was motivating and placed a new outlook on current issues.
My first task of media tracking broadened my knowledge of current events and pushed me to look at the news without the mainstream lens normally imposed. Through this broad research task, I was able to better grasp the importance of René Cassin’s work of not only creating change but building awareness for issues left out of the mainstream media. Looking through the news articles from the prior week related to their campaigns, the issue of people being stuck in the past when it comes to atrocities, rather than using it to look at their perpetuated presence in modern day society, became clear.
This was furthered by my task of creating a social media post about the Uyghur genocide and forced labour in China, which allowed me to use research in a practical way to raise awareness. This in conjunction with attending and participating in a commemorative event in parliament square to mark the 2009 Urumqi Massacre of the Uyghur people placed greater meaning behind the work that René Cassin does and created a tangibility behind the concept of human rights, too often seen as just a concept rather than actuality. In attending the panel on ‘Implementing the Duty to Prevent Genocide: Global Approaches’ in the House of Lords I was able to gain an understanding of the lack of preventative measures in place to prevent genocide and, therefore, the importance of organisations such as René Cassin in encouraging awareness and legislative change.
I was also able to attend the Arts Against Apathy exhibition in the House of Lords, which focused on portraying the youth outlook on genocide and was powerful in putting forward a message of desired change. The depth of humanity portrayed in the artwork was also inspirational in that the focus of genocide moved away from research and statistics, instead focusing on feeling and experiences creating an emotional connection.
Lastly, I worked on the organisation’s Online Safety Bill campaign, focusing on the inclusion of women and girls. In researching inspirational (Jewish) women, I was further exposed to the powerful and important work done to encourage and support women and girls, also allowing me to see the practical action taken, which is often underrepresented.
The wide range of tasks and experiences I engaged in during the week allowed me to experience many different areas of human rights activism. The integral role of human rights charities was portrayed again and again throughout the week, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience. The passion portrayed by the team at René Cassin will continue to inspire me and has developed my awareness of wider society.