Human rights is something that starts close to home

By Pauline Mukanza, from the YWCA of Great Britain


Pauline Mukanza

Pauline Mukanza is from the YWCA of Great Britain, she’s a Board Member and a participant in the European Study Session taking place in Strasbourg, France from May 6 to 12, 2013.

This year’s European Study Session, in Strasbourg, has just started yet the 32 young people from 20 different countries have already noticeably stretched themselves as young leaders. This is by no means an easy task, but an intellectual and a feeling task which requires the emotional ability of intense soul searching and great socialisation. The reality is that it is the people around us that make us acknowledge our own abilities and help mirror someone else’s personal potential.

I have already learnt that the European Youth Centre is a safe space, with support to help explore how and what it means to be a natural leader, as yourself, by utilising your personal intuition. Some more modest, quiet and eloquent while others are more assertive and out spoken, but all bringing value in their own unique way.

They reason for our fast progress, must be due to yesterday’s ice breakers and team building exercises. This fast forwarded us to reach a point where we feel comfortable and brave enough to share our diverse thoughts and opinions. It has also been very useful and indeed appropriate to have concrete factual session on what the Declaration of Human Rights and Gender is.

It is important to appreciate that human rights is something that starts close to home and in your daily conversations. By this I mean that working for an equal society starts with looking at what you do in and around your community and questioning your acquaintances, family and friends comments that may echo patriarchy. The same way it is essential to understand that gender is a performative and a doing (see J. Butler, 1990 for more on this) rather than the biological sex of a man and a woman.  Recognizing the depths of these two components both determines and changes the dynamics of future discussions. It has certainly led to participants being on the same starting points when talking about complex issues.

We may be here as individuals but the ultimate aim is to act as ‘multipliers’ and to share with other peoples in order to establish a chain reaction of young women and girls ready to set off on their own journey of leadership. There are still four whole days that are more likely to feel like months, of sharing, reflection, fun, laughter, disagreements and networking.