STF meets with Pakistan Consul-General in LA
June 2, 2009: An STF delegation met with the Consul-General of Pakistan, the Honorable Syed Ibne Abbas, to urge Pakistan to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The delegation presented him with 100 red hands and participated in a stimulating discussion on current events in Pakistan, covering such topics as Taliban resurgences in the Swat Valley and Pakistan’s education system. The Consul-General will send the STF letter and red hands to the capital in Islamabad and promised to inform STF of future progress regarding ratification progress of the Optional Protocol.
UPDATE: As of February 23, 2010, Pakistan has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Current HRW reports on Pakistan:
“Fight For Your Life”
April 28, 2009: Palisades Charter High School junior, Joshua Pandy, presented Madeleine, a former child soldier from the DRC, his poem “Fight for Your Life” at the school’s child soldier assembly on April 28. Joshua wrote the poem for Madeleine after learning about the tragedy of children forced into combat.
Former Child Soldier Tour
April 27-29, 2009: Coming from the Congo, one of the deadliest conflict areas in the world, former child soldier Madeleine and activist Bukeni Waruzi shared their experiences with high school and university students in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, including Laguna Blanca, UCSB, Palisades Charter HS, Crossroads, Santa Monica HS, Mount St Mary’s College, and Marlborough. The Child Soldier Tour, organized by STF, capped a year of STF advocacy to stop the use of child soldiers. Madeleine spoke about her experience being recruited at age 11 and her release negotiated by Bukeni. Madeleine served as the African Delegate to the UN for the Red Hand Day campaign. Bukeni is the executive director of Ajedi-Ka, which works to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
Briefing with Anneke Van Woudenberg
March 11, 2009: STF students and teachers from Crossroads, New Roads, Pacific Palisades, and Santa Monica High Schools attended an “Insider’s Briefing” with HRW researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg hosted by the Wildwood STF. Anneke discussed the history of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and shared personal stories from the field which had a profound effect on her audience. Advocacy efforts are underway to support the appointment of a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa.
UNICEF Television: HRW STF Participates in Red Hand Day in NY
UN Secretary-General Pledges to “Stamp Out” Use of Child Soldiers
February 12, 2009: At a ceremony in New York, the Secretary-General accepted a book of “red hands” created by youth from around the world as part of a year-long international Red Hand Day Campaign. Over 250,000 symbolic “red hands” were created during the campaign as an appeal to world leaders to take stronger action to end the use of child soldiers. Julia Price, President of the Canyon HS Student Task Force, participated in the presentation of the red hands. “The Red Hand Day campaign shows that people all over the world are against the use of child soldiers and want to act,” said Julia. “We are asking the leaders here today to use their influence to pressure every country to uphold international standards and to advocate on behalf of child soldiers.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the forced recruitment and use of child soldiers as “one of the most appalling human rights abuses in the world today,” and stated that “the entire United Nations system and I are determined to stamp out such abuse.”
Ex-Child Soldiers, Other Youth Appeal to Secretary-General
February 12, 2009: Former child soldiers and other youth representing a grassroots campaign from around the world (including the HRW STF) will present thousands of symbolic “red hands” to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon February 12 to demand stronger action by international leaders to end the use of child soldiers.
STF meets with Dutch Consul-General in LA
February 11, 2009: An STF delegation met with the Consul-General of the Netherlands, the Honorable Madelien de Planque, to urge the Netherlands to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. STF also presented Ms. de Planque with 100 red hands, representing over 10,000 collected by STF in LA to demonstrate their commitment to stopping the use of child soldiers. Ms. de Planque will send the STF letter and red hands to the Hague and promised to inform STF of ratification progress. The Netherlands is one of only two European Union nations who have not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.
UPDATE: September 24, 2009, the Netherlands ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Santa Clarita City Council Support Red Hand Day
On February 10, 2009 Student Task Force members from Canyon and Valencia High Schools requested the Santa Clarita City Council declare February 12 Red Hand Day in the Santa Clarita Valley. Mariah Mahotz, Jessica Lopez, Samuel Munster, and Megan Scherich spoke about the plight of child soldiers while Audrey Avergel, Forrest Piepers, and Laurent Avergel held hand prints as a representation of the Red Hand Campaign. Santa Clarita’s City Council declared February 12, 2009, Red Hand Day in the City of Santa Clarita.
STF Winter Leadership Workshop
February 7, 2009: STF leaders from eight area high schools shared advocacy techniques and learned about our new focus on the Democratic Republic Congo. The workshop began with reports on Red Hand Day advocacy with events as diverse as candle-light vigils to visits to city councils. Guest speaker Terree Bowers shared background on the International Criminal Court. Students engaged in a role playing exercise to prep for consulate visits to urge ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Guest Christina Grey presented background on the Democratic Republic of Congo to prepare for future advocacy.
Participants also kicked off STF’s 10th Anniversary year with cake and cheers!
Youth, Media and Advocacy for Human Rights
January 25, 2009: The Student Task Force partnered with Mount St. Mary’s College’s Film and Social Justice Program for a screening of student-produced short films. The films were picked from the Human Rights Watch’s “Youth Producing Change” festival as well as student work at Cleveland High School. The films focused on various advocacy issues such as indigenous cultures, worker’s rights, and cross-cultural connections. STF leaders advertised the event to their schools and communities as well as introduced the films.
Red Hand Day Events
October – December 2008: The Red Hand Campaign was the major advocacy project for STF students. All STF chapters incorporated Red Hand Day activities into their general advocacy projects to spread awareness on the issue of child soldiers. Venice High School, Santa Monica High School, and Canyon High School held assemblies to discuss the use of child soldiers and the effect of the Optional Protocol on the use of children in armed conflict. Classmates made and signed red hands to convey their support of the enforcement of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. STF collected 10,551 red hands, which will be presented by Canyon STF leader Julia Price to the United Nation Secretary General on February 12, 2009 in New York to commemorate Red Hand Day.
HRW Annual Dinner: Beverly Hills Hilton
November 18, 2008: STF members were honored to attend the Human Rights Watch Annual Dinner at the Beverly Hilton. The event honored human rights activists as well as reviewed the past year of HRW efforts across the globe, including STF’s accomplishments in the Los Angeles area. At the event, students were able to interact with professionals as they explained their advocacy campaigns and asked guests for their red hand prints.
October 4, 2008: The Student Task Force invited LA-area educators to Wildwood School to discuss the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The symposium involved an interactive panel of experts as well as workshops on how to incorporate human rights education into any subject matter. Participants left the symposium with various materials and lesson plans on the UDHR.
3rd Annual STF Leadership Conference
September 20, 2008: Student Task Force student leaders met at Brentwood School to discuss the upcoming year and determine effective strategies for successful advocacy projects. While engaging with guest speakers from Stop Genocide Now and human rights attorney Fernando Vicente, student leaders were able to learn about the situation in Darfur and the history behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students developed networking skills as STF chapters came together to share stories of past STF projects and develop ideas for future advocacy campaigns for human rights.