Amnesty International Mexico is using human rights education to create spaces for young people in Mexico to share knowledge and opinions on sexual and reproductive rights, resulting in young men realizing it’s not just a ‘women’s issue’, young people deciding enough is enough and that these rights affect all parts of society.
Bridging the disconnect
In a move to tackle the disconnect between global human rights violations and everyday concerns, Amnesty International Mexico has held several ‘Hablemos en voz alta’ (Speaking Out) workshops this year. The human rights education activity is designed for young people to openly discuss sexual and reproductive rights, and was used to launch the My Body My Rights campaign in March 2014.
Over a hundred young people from diverse organisations across Mexico came together to begin a dialogue on sexual and reproductive rights. This included students and activists, teachers, lawyers and indigenous women. The majority of them were not previously affiliated with the local Amnesty section.
Men should not feel attacked; rather, they should feel included in this process. This knowledge is important not only for young persons, but also for parents. It is necessary to include them in the education process.Catalina, University Student
Facilitators created an open space where participants could discuss sexual and reproductive rights, and examine case studies of violations around the world. The young activists had strong reactions to the Choo San images of body paintings visually illustrating related rights. For example, the right to contraception depicted a strip of pills embedded in an arm.
They then drew linkages between those situations and similar occurrences in Mexico. Edwin, a university student, said, ‘Basta! These violations cannot continue to exist. We must say enough! These rights are essential for the coexistence of humans in harmony. We must support [those] who have been violated. We cannot remain silent.’
‘Not just a women’s issue’
Young people were given the opportunity to share their feelings and identify issues of personal significance, and the organizers were pleased at the response. One participant who had originally planned to leave after 30 minutes ended up staying for the entire event. Moreover, two young men who began the day convinced that sexual and reproductive rights was just a ‘women’s issue’ came to understand that it was relevant to their daily lives.
Catalina, another student agreed, ‘Men should not feel attacked; rather, they should feel included in this process. This knowledge is important not only for young persons, but also for parents. It is necessary to include them in the education process.’
Knowledge is power
Participants were challenged to imagine how their lives would be different if their rights were violated. One of the provided ‘What if?’ scenarios told the story of Jean-Claude, a Cameroonian national who was sentenced to 36 months in prison for homosexuality. The right to choose your own partner generated a lot of discussion, as the young persons talked about the homophobic attitudes that still exist in Mexican society. In addition, the young men noted that many state authorities do not respect the rights of women, girls, and gay men and women.
Several participants expressed the need for education, as they believe that patterns of inequality between women and men are being perpetuated within the state.
More workshops will be held throughout the two-year campaign, in keeping with the overarching goal of preparing young men and women to become peer educators on sexual and reproductive rights.
One student remarked, ‘It is important that women are trained on sexual and reproductive rights, so that [we] can spread the message, especially to the most remote parts of the country where these rights are violated daily. We must work hard on this issue. Knowledge will set you free.’
Amnesty International launched the My Body My Rights campaign in March 2014, which aims to empower individuals to make informed choices about their sexuality and reproduction, and to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights freely.
‘Speaking Out!’ is a youth engagement human rights education activity aimed at starting a conversation and enabling young people to take meaningful action for the My Body My Rights campaign and become campaign champions.
The My Body My Rights human rights education activities aim to engage youth to:
Increase their understanding of sexual and reproductive rights,
how they affect their lives and why they are important,
Have their voices and opinions highlighted in the global campaign launch,
Begin or continue their involvement with the My Body My Rights campaign and sexual and reproductive rights work with Amnesty International,
Develop skills by facilitating human rights education and activism with other young people.