Between July 7th and 14th, DBYN (Don Bosco Youth-Net) and the Council of Europe organized a study session called «Compassing DBYN towards Human Rights Education» at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, in order to train youth trainers to Human Rights Education, one of the Council of Europe’s core values. Daniel Broderick shares his opinions about the study session.
Photos by DBYN: www.donboscoyouth.net
Before travelling to the DBYN step 3 conference on Human Rights, I had certain ideas of what was in store for me. A tiresome week of sitting in seminars, dull speakers or barefoot hippies, and having to shut up and listen. What is human rights anyway, I kept asking myself on the bus to Strasbourg. Is it not just a long list of do’s and don’ts? Not only this but the week was my first ever activity with DBYN I got off the bus thinking, “Yeah the week will be boring, but I endure it, and buy a Strasbourg t-shirt and mug. The reality couldn’t have been further from my preconceptions.”
The beginning of the conference shocked me. I wasn’t met by middle-aged politicians or NGO workers but young enthusiastic volunteers and activists. All from different cultures and backgrounds, all incredibly warm and empathetic people, all with a passion for young people and Human Rights. I suppose their vibrancy was pretty contagious, because by the end of second night I was throwing myself into the energisers and debates!
Throughout the week we were assigned actual tasks and campaigns to envision and create. Breaking into small teams, we brainstormed various injustices of our own countries, violations against the freedoms people deserve. The diversity of problems was shocking. While controversial topics such as corruption, abortion, and discrimination came to mind, when thinking of Ireland; India knocked me put of the park. Child labour, sex trafficking and gender inequality are widespread in their culture, and some of the stories I heard were profound. Street kids being beaten, begging, thieving and then the Don Bosco setup being an absolute light to these kids.
The following days proved just as compelling. We were given tasks such as making posters, theatre sketches, short videos and slogans all relating to raising awareness and/or tackling human rights violations. The right to marriage, the right to education, the right to fair trial are some of the examples used in sketches and video advertisement. I’m rubbish at drama but it didn’t matter, it was about passion and enthusiasm!
Apart from Human Rights, participants were offered immense choice of workshops. Each workshop related directly to being a trainer, topics such as safeguarding, conflict management and group development. The jargon was all finally explained to me, and I can’t stress enough how much I learned.
Then one evening during the week, the participants hit the town to put our training into action! We began in the Strasbourg square, in front of the famous cathedral. A group of 30 nut jobs singing and performing energisers for the crowds in the streets. Our spontaneous games suddenly grew and strangers began to join in with us. Tourists, locals, young and old, it didn’t matter, the language barriers were broken and the group of 30 grew to 40. Then 50. Then 80. The atmosphere of fun vibrated through Strasbourg and the spectators kept coming. Until there must have been 150 joyful faces taking part in the Don Bosco energisers and 300 people watching! All of us strangers but united by one in breakable tie: humanity. A slow darkness began to blanket Strasbourg and I came to realise something profound during the laughs and dancing.
Human Rights is not a long list of stats and facts, or airy fairy obligations. Human Rights run through our blood. It’s not a list, but a mutual dignity, respect and love between Humans. It’s acting like dancing lunatics or generating energisers for an anonymous crowd. Everyone is included regardless or race, colour, religion, or nationality. Human Rights are universal. Full stop. I began to finally formulate concrete notions of the simple words human rights and the way these can be achieved. It’s not always by campaigning, petitioning or lobbying but more often in every day life. It’s the way we relate to other Human beings. It’s the dignity, empathy and kindness we show one another. Maybe I’m realising that I don’t need a BA degree in the topic to practise it. It’s sometimes as simple as reflecting Gods love onto other human beings, because… Well… They’re human!