Share
Share

Angelina Jolie and Amnesty International have joined forces to create a resource for children and young people to learn about their rights, with the publication of a new book which empowers teenagers to speak out against injustice.

Know Your Rights and Claim Them explains what child rights are, equips young people with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and others, and shows how governments are failing to uphold their commitment to child rights. It was written in collaboration with Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC, one of the original drafters of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Angelina Jolie said:

“If governments kept their word, and if all adults respected children’s rights, there would be no need for this book. Children have rights just as adults do and they should have the power and agency to claim them.

“Know Your Rights and Claim Them is the book some adults don’t want children to read, as it will arm them with the knowledge to defend their rights and those of others.

“Governments signed up to protect children’s rights in 1989, yet many of them are still failing to listen to the voices of children. In some countries, girls as young as nine are forced into marriage. Globally, more than 61 million children don’t attend primary schools and, in 2019, one in six children were living in extreme poverty – a number that rose significantly during the pandemic. It’s time to remind the world of its commitment to children’s rights.”

The book can be pre-ordered in United States, Australia, New Zealand and Greece, with other countries including South Korea, Denmark and Germany following close behind. The authors’ goal is for the book to be published in all languages and countries, empowering many millions of young people to know and claim their rights.

The social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic provide a stark reminder that many human rights issues have a disproportionate impact on young people and when it comes to issues that directly affect them, their voices are rarely heard or listened to. Know Your Rights and Claim Them aims to equip young people with the knowledge they need to stand up and have their say.

The book sets out how the concept of children’s rights came into being through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was designed to give children the right to a voice and to participate in all decisions that affect them. It also features how-to guides, along with the stories of a number of incredible young activists who are at the forefront of human rights change around the world. Whether campaigning on climate change, demanding access to education, or speaking out against racial discrimination and gun violence, these inspirational young people demonstrate the power of standing up for what we believe in.

Khairiyah Rahmanyah, 19, was born to a fishing family who live close to the sea in southern Thailand. The sea near her home is a rich source of seafood and home to endangered marine species, such as sea turtles and rare pink dolphins. In 2020, when she was 17, Khairiyah launched a campaign against the Thai government’s plan to develop her village, Chana, into an industrial estate. As a result, the government decided to postpone their decision. However, the project has not been dropped, and the fight for her community continues.

“Words cannot explain how I feel to be part of this book,” said Khairiyah, who spent hours picketing, and traveled 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) to Government House in Bangkok to deliver a letter to the prime minister begging him to stop the development.

“I am really proud to be representing the stories of my community. I was born into activism and I have been fighting to protect my community since I was little. It has been painful to live this reality and I want life to be different for the next generation. As children, we must be allowed to learn about our rights and it’s up to adults to encourage, empower and support us.”

Children have a right to life, dignity and health; identity; equality and non-discrimination; a safe place to live; protection from harm; participation (including the right to be heard); bodily integrity; protection from armed violence; justice and liberty; privacy; minority and Indigenous rights; education; play; freedom of thought; and voice and peaceful protest.

There are about 2.3 billion children in the world, nearly a third of the total human population. Given the devastating impact of the global pandemic on children and young people, it’s never been more crucial to arm them with the knowledge they deserve. This is their right – and it’s time for the world to listen and act.

The United States is not a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – ratified by 196 other countries. However, youth activists in the United States are advocating for their human rights to be recognized and respected, including the rights to a healthy environment and to be free from gun violence.

Tokata (Future) Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the United States. At nine years old, she testified against the building of a uranium mine in the sacred Black Hills and at twelve, began advocating against the proposed route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, helping draw thousands of national and international visitors to Standing Rock to fight the pipeline in a protest that lasted nearly a year.

“We know the importance of respecting our water, protecting our land, and recognizing that we must be the ones to tackle tomorrow’s challenges today”, said Tokata Iron Eyes. “We want and need to see systemic transformations. We want a reckoning where our right to life, health, food, water, housing and livelihoods is prioritized. We can envision a different future by ourselves. We are ready to be a part of the vital change that needs to take place and we are unafraid to be loud about it.”

BRAVE, which stands for Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere! is a violence prevention youth council in Chicago that was created in 2009 to train young people to be peacemakers with their peers and leaders. It also gives them the opportunity to create change using leadership, peer to peer support, public speaking and activism. This after-school program enables teenagers to combat the realities of everyday gun violence and social injustices. BRAVE’s young people attend and speak at rallies, marches and discussions in Chicago and beyond.

“What I believe kids need at this time is more resources to make sure they are safe”, said Jordan Turner. “I got involved with Know Your Rights and Claim Them with BRAVE, a youth activist program that helps other youth voices be heard when they feel like they can’t voice them themselves. What kids need is more voices to be heard. Not enough attention is being brought to them. People should reach out more to see what is going on with their mental health. I want people to know that it’s OK to have feelings. Wherever you live, there is a safe haven for you. People need trauma support, therapy, and resources to get help for conditions like PTSD. It can be overwhelming and it is important for people to go at their own pace. One simple conversation can change everything.

“I lost people to gun violence and it made me want to speak out. I wanted to be the voice for the kids that didn’t like to speak up, as I was one of them. My point of view changed by being involved in programs like BRAVE, which taught me to be comfortable with not being comfortable.”

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“We must all tackle the human rights issues of today, with an eye on the future, knowing we are accountable to the world of 2030. Not only must we ask ourselves – ‘how are our actions impacting the children of tomorrow?’ – we need to make sure that children are setting the agenda for the years to come. That can only happen if they know their rights and how to claim them.

“When children don’t, they’re at risk of abuse, discrimination, and exploitation, often at the hands of adults. They’re also at risk of being overlooked, unable to participate in important decisions about the world they live in and the problems they will inherit. Amnesty International is campaigning to ensure children’s rights are a priority for governments across the world.

“That’s why, alongside the book, we have launched an online human rights education course featuring young activists, which will serve as a powerful tool to empower young people and others to claim their rights across the world. When young people are educated about their rights, they are empowered to defend them, to stand up against injustice against themselves and others. Knowledge is key. We will all benefit from a world in which child rights are upheld.”

Contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected]

Note: Know Your Rights and Claim Them will be released in the United States on October 5, 2021 with Lerner Publishing. The book will be available online and from all bookstores. Young activists are available for interviews and case studies of activists in the United States and abroad are available. A lightbox of photography is available by emailing [email protected]