Our day in Parliament

10 Jul, 2023 | Human Rights Ambassador Programme, Latest

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by Shifra Morris-Evans, Cohort 3, René Cassin Human Rights Ambassadors Programme

As part of the René Cassin Ambassador Programme we were invited to spend the day in Parliament, for a panel and then to present our personal projects. The environment of being in Parliament was truly inspiring – walking through Westminster Hall to our meeting room, and the screens showing Prime Minister’s Questions was a fantastic backdrop for our talk from Alex Sobel MP, who started off the panel. Joining Alex on the panel were Amos Schonfield – Founder and Director of Our Second Home, Nina Freedman – External Affairs Officer at Antisemitism Policy Trust and former President of the Union of Jewish Students and Isabela Rodrigues – Strategic Advisor at Stop Uyghur Genocide UK.

Alex spoke about his work campaigning for the rights of migrants and indigenous people in incredibly practical terms. I felt that this sort of insight was something integral to the Ambassador Programme – the speakers throughout, although very optimistic and motivational, were insightful and realistic about ways to create meaningful change. Being in the Houses of Parliament as the panelists spoke about the lobbying power of the Board of Deputies and other similar organisations (such as the JLC), the swing seats in Jewish communities (where there was real potential to inject more consciousness on human rights into the policies of the MPs) seemed to sharpen the drive of all the Ambassadors.

Certainly, in our conversations with one another while we had lunch there was real excitement. Not only were we being shown how to mobilise the feelings we have towards the injustices in the world into action, we were able to discuss it in the building where these changes take place. Meeting the other Ambassadors face to face was invaluable – hearing everyone’s thoughtful and productive ideas whilst recognising one another as people who share the same passion was part of what makes the programme so meaningful. After hearing the panelists speak and the campaign proposals, we were lucky enough to have a tour of Parliament.

Of course, anyone who has visited Westminster can speak to what an impressive  sight it is, but what was so impactful about the visit was the combination of understanding and seeing. The Ambassador Programme had really empowered us to believe that we could raise more awareness and greater adherence to human rights. I am sure, others like me, as we walked past the House of Commons and saw MPs drinking tea on the terrace, were envisioning the ways we could get our ideas into this space.

As each of the Ambassadors presented their projects, it was evident how the Programme sessions we had attended had been an invaluable influence. Each person’s project was targeted and played to their strengths in order to deliver a specific result. Katie, a university student, had created an event where she had invited a speaker to raise awareness for the rights of pregnant women in asylum detention; Roxanna, had created a list of cultural foods that could be distributed, along with information about them, by the food bank to encourage more varied dimensions; Cory, still in school, was delivering an assembly about how to make classrooms accessible to students with neurodiversity; and Zachary, who is proficient in coding, is creating a website to explore the history of migration into the United Kingdom. It was a brilliant collection of ideas, which had clearly used the tools available to them to produce results.

The day in Parliament was the best way to draw the ‘contact time’ stage of the Programme to a close. It was truly a privilege to visit the epicenter of our political system, to speak and be inspired by such engaged and interesting panelists and to listen to the fantastic ideas of the others in the group.

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