Exercising human rights
In the letter, Kumi Naidoo requests school educators to remember that by taking part in the strikes, children are exercising their human rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and to have a say in decisions and matters that affect their lives.
He also shared his own personal experience of being expelled from school, aged 15, for organising an anti-apartheid protest at his school in Durban, South Africa:
‘This setback redoubled my commitment to learning, and thankfully I was able to complete my studies and ultimately take up the role I have the honour of holding today. But I also had something that children of this generation do not have: the chance to imagine a future that is not overshadowed by the prospect of a climate emergency.
‘My experience also informed my strong belief that children should not be punished for speaking out about the great injustices of our age. In fact, when it has fallen on young people to show the leadership that many adults who hold great positions of power have failed to, it is not young people’s behaviour we should be questioning. It is ours.’
Ambassador of Conscience Award
Earlier this week, climate change activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of school-children were honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2019.
‘This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth, fighting for their future. A future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot.
‘We, who together are the movement Fridays for Future, we are fighting for our lives. But not only that, we are also fighting for our future children and grandchildren, for future generations, for every single living being on earth, whose biosphere we share, whose biosphere we are stealing, whose biosphere we are ruining. We are fighting for everyone.’
The Ambassador of Conscience Award is Amnesty International’s highest honour, celebrating people who have shown unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights – people who have acted on their conscience and used their talents to inspire others.
Amnesty International chose to give the 2019 award to Greta because of her efforts to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
Her decision to miss school every Friday starting in August 2018 and instead protest outside the Swedish parliament until it took more serious action to tackle the climate emergency kicked off the Fridays for Future movement. It has since mobilised more than one million young people from all over the world.
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