We are All Human Beings, We All Have Equal Rights, say Youth in Torit
The group of young people gathered under the shady tree in Torit are holding signs reading “American”, “German”, “South Sudanese”, “Woman”, “Man”, “Rich”, “Poor”, “Muslim”, “Christian”.
The teenagers are asked to reach out their hands to each other without putting down their sign. They quickly realise that is not possible. They must let go of their sign if they are to come together.
This exercise in Torit was designed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to illustrate to young people in the conflict-affected country how important it is not to cling to individual tribal affiliations or identities but rather to see each other more broadly as human beings with equal rights.
The Mission is working closely with young peace ambassadors in Torit to help them understand the meaning of universal rights and that human rights apply to everyone, regardless of national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language or any other status.
The young ambassadors also received in-depth training about human rights principles, including their own rights as children under the age of 18 and the responsibilities that come with these rights.
Agrispina Ikoto, a pupil from Father Saturlino Secondary School, said she had learned a lot about human rights and was committed to sharing her new understanding with others.
“Human rights is if you are a human being or a child or you are an old women, we should treat everyone equally. We are all one and we are all South Sudanese. Even if you are someone from Europe or South Sudan, we are all one. We are all human beings.” she explained.
For the past eight months, youth peace ambassadors have been meeting with UNMISS on a regular basis as part of the Mission’s efforts to promote social cohesion and protect civilians through grassroots efforts involving local youth.
Over 30 youth are now involved in the initiative, supported by the Torit State Ministry of Education, and have completed training in peace, reconciliation, social cohesion, youth leadership – and now also human rights. The youth peace ambassadors are also taking the lead in developing an active network of peace clubs in their respective schools, encompassing over 15 schools in the Torit area and involving some 400 pupils.
Now they are also fired up to promote human rights and educate their fellow peers and community members on human rights principles.
Dominic Totye, a pupil from Dr. John Garang Secondary School in Torit, highlighted his vision for youth peace ambassadors to apply this knowledge and promote human rights in their communities.
“Today I have come to know about human rights. We [youth peace ambassadors] will take this knowledge back to our various schools to help implement those rights. The activity has really empowered me to reach my community members. I am really motivated to encourage community members to follow human rights principles in South Sudan to prevent wrongdoings against citizens, especially against children,” he said.
As the youth concluded the awareness activity on human rights, they gathered under the UN flag at UNMISS Torit chanting “We are all human beings, we all have equal rights” signifying their firm commitment to taking a unified approach to upholding human rights.