Introducing young leaders to human rights

Cassady Shaw and Tamara Larson

Cassady Shaw, left, and Tamara Larson at the Nelson Mandela Exhibit in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

By Tamara C Larson, Youth Services Chair for District 5370 (West and Northwest Canada) 

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being a chaperone and working with many young leaders as they attend the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg as part of our district’s program to introduce young people to human rights.  As youth service chair, I find working with these young leaders to be very inspiring. They have a strong investment in social justice, in creating positive change, and are willing to tackle tough issues without compromise.

Class at an exhibit

Shaw’s class and Interact club learn about human rights at one of the museum’s exhibits.

One such young leader, Cassidy Shaw, came to me for help planning a trip to the museum with members of her school and Interact club. Cassidy was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek. We were able to form a partnership with the Rotary and Interact clubs, the museum and Dawson Creek Secondary School to allow 15 students to attend the museum from 25 February to 1 March.

As part of their visit, the students were taking part in a national pilot program at the museum that encourages students to become engaged citizens and leaders in advancing human rights. The students interacted with leading academics, thinkers, and people who have experience with human rights. Students spent three days learning about the importance of diversity and inclusion, truth and reconciliation, and how to take action for human rights in their own lives and communities.

During their visit, they talked about how they could make change, share their knowledge with their peers, speak up rather than being a bystander, show respect to others, and continue to increase their knowledge and understanding of human rights.

What steps will these young leaders take to make a difference? The participants have a desire to focus on racism, truth and reconciliation, and mental health awareness. They say they want to be more inclusive and have a better understanding of the challenges faced by those with disabilities every day, and to be respectful of gender identity. They are committed to increasing their volunteerism, creating awareness campaigns of these important topics, and working with others in their school and community to create change.

The partnership between the museum and our district will be an integral part of our program for young leaders going forward, as one of many opportunities for them to learn and grow each year.

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