Equitas develops educational programs to promote respect for human rights in Canada and around the world. These programs are carried out by agents of change who are mindful of justice and equality for all. Children and young people are at the heart of the changes happening in their communities; they, therefore, play a crucial role as dynamic actors rather than passive addressees. Whether in Canada or elsewhere in the world, children and youth prove that if we believe in their potential and offer them the right tools, they can become real leaders who bring about real change. This year, Equitas promoted the participation of children and youth by helping them to become more aware of their rights and to encourage decision-makers to act for sustainable change.
This year, 1 200 000 children and youth in Canada, 255 000 of which were in Quebec, were sensitized by Equitas’ Speaking Rights and Play it Fair! programs. Thanks to these initiatives, children and youths learn about their rights and values such as inclusion, respect, and diversity while also developing their self-expression, self-confidence, and teamworking skills.
Equitas collaborates with youth and the organizations that represent them in Canada through the Speaking Rights program, which reinforces young people’s ability to promote respect for human rights through participatory activities and Community Action Projects (CAPs). In 2020, Speaking Rights celebrated its 10th anniversary. In its 10 years of operation, the program has enabled youth to conduct over 150 PACs across Canada.
To complete a CAP, youth first determine what the major issues are in their community. Then, with the help of our resources and tools, they identify solutions to address these issues, which they then implement themselves. This year, 20 CAPs were carried out by young people in 20 communities throughout Canada.
In the context of a CAP, many groups of young people around the country decided to tackle the issue of racism in their communities. For example, in Alberta, young newcomers of the Saamis Immigration Services Association decided to fight against racism, bullying, and stereotypes about immigrants. These youth not only led numerous awareness-building and educational initiatives in their communities but also initiated dialogue about these issues with community decision-makers, including municipal councillors and even members of the police force. These young people are tomorrow’s true leaders!
In Montreal, Equitas supported the participation of youth from Native Montreal in the city’s consultation regarding systemic racism and discrimination. Our team co-facilitated a workshop with Native Montreal during which young people shared their experiences of racism and discrimination and showed how these issues are inextricably linked to others such as classism, poverty, bullying, homophobia, mental health, and ableism. The young people who participated in this consultation then proposed numerous concrete solutions for tackling these problems.
“Being in this safe space and having outside organizations such as Equitas as allies, really helped me boost my confidence in this project. In addition, this experience has taught me the importance of youth creating opportunities for other youth and viewing each other as a community!”
– Speaking Rights participant from Toronto
“ Thanks to our project, my peers and I are better informed and more aware of citizen initiatives to combat racism. Also, we started a conversation on racism and exchanged our points of view.”
–Young participant, Montreal
“We are still showing the video and sharing it with the community. A lot of the time the youth in the video are recognized and are the go-to youth for others when they need help or resources [on mental health] … Our video was shown to our leaders and our Executive Director who then took it to show in Switzerland at a conference about violence against Aboriginal women.”
– Coordinator of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Equitas partner working with Indigenous youth in Winnipeg, Canada (May 2016)
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), young agents of change demonstrated their leadership by participating in the Rawabet initiative to tackle issues such as child marriage, the violation of the rights of people living with disabilities, and victims of sexual harassment. Rawabet is a regional initiative led by Equitas in collaboration with New Tactics for Human Rights, Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya, TuMed, and AMEJ-FES. Its goal is to help young people, women, and people living with disabilities to carry out initiatives that respect their human rights.
In Tunisia, young people took massive action in support of the integration of people living with disabilities in the workforce. Thanks to their efforts, Rawabet youth had more than 14 meetings with human rights educators, representatives of groups of people living with disabilities, union representatives, political leaders, and deputees who collaborated to develop recommendations that would facilitate the access of people living with disabilities to the job market.
In Jordan, the “You’re Still Young” initiative organized 6 awareness training sessions with 5 imams and sheiks about the disastrous consequences of marriage on young girls’ lives. In Morocco, Rawabet participants organized an interactive forum devoted to this same topic which was attended by representatives of judicial institutions and parents. In Egypt, young Rawabet participants mobilized 45 other youth in their community to fight against harassment and sexual violence. They also spurred the decision-makers in their village to take concrete steps to prevent harassment such as stationing police at the bus terminal. After having completed a training program based on our Play it Fair! toolkit, the employees of the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt led more than 13 awareness workshops around the country and sensitized 416 children and their teachers who will continue to spread the message of change.
“Our theatre play presented important issues in a humorous way. The mothers who attended commended us on helping them become more aware of the negative consequences of early marriage on the health of their daughters.”
– Maha, youth participant in Morocco (February 2016)
Children and youth are more capable than you might think. Our Community Action Projects are fully developed and led by children and youth, which gives them the space and opportunity to contribute in their own way to the change they hope to see in the world.
We encourage participation and action by supporting children and youth to share their ideas and thoughts. At the Youth Forums in Senegal, the moderator roles for the discussions were given to youth, enabling them to take leadership, as well as build their capacity and confidence.
In all our work with children and youth, we use language that is inclusive, simple and straightforward, so that it is accessible and ensures that young people feel they can engage in thoughtful discussions. Our Play it Fair! program uses games to promote basic human rights values, like respect, fairness and acceptance, and to encourage discussions around children’s feelings, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours and actions in relation to these values.
The use of art-based practices creates spaces for young people to express themselves and facilitate the co-creation of ideas and strategies with adults. One of our Speaking Rights partners, Graffiti Art Programming, uses street art to create dialogues on human rights issues in Winnipeg. This year, over 1,000 Manitobans attended a music festival they organized on the theme of gender equality and the diversity of voices in hip-hop.
Equitas thinks that meeting children and youth in their spaces (face-to-face or online), where they feel comfortable, safe and have the confidence to share their ideas, is an important way to increase participation. Our new Speaking Rights website was created with a Youth Advisory Committee to ensure that the site reflects their needs and ideas and facilitates youth engagement.
As part of their Equitas Community Action Project, a group of young women from La Maison d’Haiti published a toolkit on equal relationships, conjugal violence, harassment and sexual assault. The momentum of the project led to the creation of a committee with community and political leaders in Montreal to address issues of sexual violence and gender inequality in schools. Since, the project and committee have had significant media coverage and community support.
Explore our work that includes children and youth participation in Canada, Senegal, Tanzania, Colombia, the Middle-East and North Africa and Sri Lanka.
Give girls and boys like Pamithi and Shehaha in Sri Lanka the tools they need to approach a changing world with open minds.
Support our projects for children like Veronica, Jaden and their classmates in Canada to learn about human rights values like inclusion and respect for diversity, and become positive changemakers in their communities.
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