Youth for human rights

'An activist organisation works best when everyone can contribute as much as they want.'

Through their rebirth, Amnesty Youth Leuven aims to bring the theme of human rights back into the spotlight among the Leuven youth. Their first activity has already proven to be a success.

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When we arrive, Jakob, Mirthe and Hera are already awaiting us in the Agora room we reserved beforehand. These young students represent the brand new youth group of Amnesty International Leuven. 'Of course, we already knew Amnesty International from their renowned 'Write for Rights', in which our high schools participate, but I never thought I would be a part of it', says Jakob.

Amnesty Youth Leuven is Leuven's representative for Flanders' Amnesty youth groups. 'Almost every city has its own group. But for Leuven specifically, we try to focus mainly on students, even though they’re not our only target audience.' This is reflected in the fact that some members are still in high school.

'Perhaps we should clarify', says Jakob, 'that we have no affiliation with LOKO.' The organisation felt no need for LOKO's financial support, as they already received aid from Amnesty Flanders.

Voluntary commitment

Amnesty Youth Leuven also has a distinctive organisational structure. Each member is free to suggest their ideas in the group and participate in the organisation of an event. 'This allows people to contribute their ideas and allows others to join the organisation for an event of their choosing.’, declares Mirthe.

'Events are open for Flemish and international students.'

'As such, you can join the chat for the event that appeals to you the most', adds Hera. That means a member isn't required to attend every event or meeting. 'We feel that an activist organisation works best when everyone can contribute as much as they want.' Alongside action groups, which focus on organising specific activities, it is also possible to join working groups. Those groups assemble to discuss the organisation of general facilities such as social media.

To the youth

'Our organisation is based on voluntary engagement, which makes it easier for international students to join', says Hera. Furthermore, the organisation's general chat, where general ideas are exchanged, is conducted in English. 'Even in the action group chats, which do not always include English members, it became a habit to communicate in English', says Jakob jokingly.

'Events are open to both international and Flemish students, both in the organisation and participation', Hera adds.

On the agenda

The first activity organised by Amnesty Youth Leuven was a 'fight fast fashion fair'. With this event, the organisation aimed to highlight human rights violations in the fast fashion clothing industry.

'Be sure to expect future exhibitions, documentaries, debates, speakers and more'

Hera, volunteer at Amnesty Youth Leuven

'Amnesty Flanders (pretty much) gives us free rein', expresses Jakob, 'As long as we are committed to fighting for human rights, we are allowed to do whatever we want - within reasonable limits. We only have to send the bill afterwards!'

Currently, about four activist groups are working on future events. 'In the long run, we'd like to get off the ground a number of collaborations and classic actions that the former Leuven Amnesty Youth group organised', Mirthe adds.

As such, Jamnesty, a festival devoted to the theme of human rights, became an annual event. 'The festival won't take place this year, but you should definitely keep an eye out in the near future!' Other ideas have been flowing in as well: 'You can expect future exhibitions, documentaries, debates, lectures and more', says Hera.

'There clearly is a lot of drive!' conclude young activists Hera, Jakob and Mirthe.

If you are interested, feel free to send a direct message to @amnestyyouthleuven, where you can also discover upcoming events.

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