Exploring gender equality and human rights at St Mary’s College

Students at a Crosby school have been hearing first-hand about efforts to tackle gender inequality and promote human rights in Africa and India.

St Mary’s College recently welcomed representatives of Justice Desk Africa (JDA), a non-governmental organisation dedicated to empowering people and helping them to understand and defend their human rights.

They were joined by members of Pratyek, which fulfils a similar function in India.

The visit – part of a UK tour – was organised by the Edmund Rice Network, an international network of schools, congregational communities and justice organisations that St Mary’s College is proud to be part of.

Guest speakers included JDA founder and chief executive Jessica Dewhurst, a proud South African and well-known professional in the field of human rights and anti-human trafficking.

She was supported by two young members of JDA who say they are ‘on a mission to blaze a trail for young women everywhere’.

19-year-old Mieshane Roberts is a campaigner against gender-based violence from Bonteheuwel, a South African community that has high levels of violence and crime.

She is part of the Mbokodo Project which helps girl survivors of rape and violence to overcome their experiences.

Talisha Mpoyiya, also 19, is another key member of the Mbokodo Project, this time in the township of Nyanga.

Both young women say that their aim is to help everyone they work with to live healthier and happier lives, and to ensure that all members of the community are treated with kindness and respect.

The UK tour is part of this process, aiming to inspire teachers and young people to get involved in activism work and be part of efforts to create effective change for the better.

St Mary’s humanities teacher Ray Lee, who co-ordinates the school’s Edmund Rice International Group, commented: “We were delighted to welcome our visitors from Africa, India and Edmund Rice England.

“Their thought-provoking training sessions highlighted the fact that human rights are still being regularly violated in Africa and India, and little is being done about the problem in many quarters including South Africa, where violence remains depressingly common.

“However, the obvious enthusiasm of the members of Justice Desk Africa and Pratyek for their work, and their commitment to tackling injustice in all its forms, really does make you believe that positive change and a brighter future can be achieved in the years ahead.”

Sixth form student and Edmund Rice Ambassador, Naomi Jones, said: “The real-life experiences of the speakers allowed us to understand the necessity for advocacy more clearly and also the impact we can make as young people.”

Another sixth form Edmund Rice Ambassador, Niall Martindale, added: “Our thoughts were drawn to the causes of those less fortunate than ourselves thanks to these eye-opening workshops, and I know I found myself inspired to spark positive change.”

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