“We as a community cannot sit back and watch as others experience the horrors of slavery”

12 Aug, 2019 | Latest, Work Experience

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By Leah Malkinson, July 2019

Leah Malkinson explains how her work experience week was not just admin and making coffee, but rather “immersed [her] into the world of human rights activism”

Prior to my week of work experience with René Cassin, along with my friends we discussed our expectations and assumptions of what the week ahead would pan out to be. Many of them expressed how they would simply be filing, photocopying and fetching coffees, and so, on arriving at René Cassin I was fully prepared for a mundane week of just that, filing, photocopying and fetching coffees. Thus making me question the actual usefulness of this compulsory ‘work experience’. However, my experience here at René Cassin, has been far from that. Not only was I made to feel comfortable and welcome straight away but I was immediately immersed in work life of René Cassin.

On Monday I attended the Human Trafficking Foundation quarterly advisory forum. This was where a panel the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the Head of the anti-slavery unit at the Home Office discussed in detail their roles in tackling human trafficking and slavery. I sat amongst passionate activists, charities and foundations all who had a rich and detailed understanding and opinion on how the government should deal with human rights issues. As a mere school girl I felt way out of my depth surrounded by all these intellectuals, however, as the day went on my knowledge and passion for human rights was only enriched and expanded.

Next I was fortunate enough to go to Parliament where I attended an Oral Evidence Session discussing ‘The Macpherson Report: twenty years on’. Here they discussed the legal matters behind the Macpherson report, which came about after the death of Stephen Lawrence. This was an incredible experience, shedding light into an area of human rights I had never explored before.

Whilst I’ve always had a passion for advocating human rights, before working here I felt I knew everything I needed to know, however, after a thorough briefing and overall summary of the history of human rights I found that in my own knowledge I had barely scratched the surface.

As a modern orthodox Jew I had always separated my religion and my passion for human rights seeing no connection between the two. It was here at René Cassin where I was able to uncover the deep underlying responsibility we as Jews have in supporting and advocating human rights. I underestimated how my heritage connected so deeply with many human rights issues including modern day slavery.

Slavery is a word that resonates deeply with the whole of the Jewish community, each year we sit down for two nights retelling the story of when we were once slaves. We drink wine, relax and act like royalty, celebrating our freedom in the 21st century barely connecting with the concept of slavery, and yet an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide are currently living as modern day slaves. Here at René Cassin I was able to see the huge responsibility we have in the Jewish community to highlight and prevent modern slavery. We as a community cannot sit back and watch as others experience the horrors of slavery, we must use our underlying connection to support and stand in solidarity with the victims of modern slavery.

Whilst my time here at René Cassin has been short, it has most definitely been sweet. Each day I was immersed into the world of human rights activism, whether it was attending a forum or simply tracking the media for recent articles and news headlines, I was continuously opened up to a world of information supporting human rights. At the end of this week I am proud to say that my ‘compulsory’ work experience has not been mundane, has not been filled with filing, photocopying and fetching coffees but filled with inspiration, education and responsibility that has given me a sense of importance and solidified my passion for advocating human rights.

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