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On 10th November our School Ambassadors visited the EQUALITY and HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISION. (EHRC) and asked some questions of Mrs Kate Bennet the Director for WALES about her work.

 

One of the three jobs our Ambassadors do is to promote Childrens Rights. But what about when you get to 18 what about the Rights of all People or HUMAN RIGHTS? These were set up in the United Nations 62 years ago in 1948. We all want Fairness in school and later on in all aspects of our life, and the EHRC is there to help us achieve that.

 

We put together a series of questions and we were invited to the Cardiff Offices of the ERHC. We had a tour of the offices and saw for ourselves how the building was fitted with automatic doors that enable wheelchair users to use the facilities, rather than have standard fittings that would disable people who happen to have to use a wheelchair.

 

Theses are the questions we asked:-

 

1.) Do you think Rights should be earned or carry a responsibility?

I think everyone should have the same rights, but you should also be responsible in the way that you use them.

 

2.) What are you most proud of achieving in your job & as a person? What would you most like to achieve? Would you like to be commissioner?

I am really proud of the team that we have here, they all work really well together. I would like Wales to be a fair and equitable country. No the commissioner only works a couple of days, I am happier in my job I get to work full time in a fulltime job which I really love.

 

3.) What effect has October’s Equality Act already had? Do you think it is an important act and why?

I think that it has meant that the newspapers were writing a lot about it, which in turn gets people talking about it and thinking about these important issues. Thinking is important because it’s the ideas that enable change.
It helps people to understand what rights and responsibilities are.

 

4.) We looked at your report “who runs Wales 2009”, what effect did that have?

It has already resulted in several political parties working hard to pick more women and ethnic minorities to be more representative of the people they serve.

 

5.) Are there differences in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland & England in the way Equality & Human Rights need to be delivered? Is the North/South divide just as important?

In Wales we have more disabled, poor and old people as well as more children and less of the very high paid jobs. It is important to have fairness in all the UK

 

6.) The National Assembly of Wales voted to ban smacking children in 2004, but the UK government resisted calls to fully sign up to the UNCRC. Do you think this is right & will children in the UK ever be able to get the protection as other countries?

Children in the UK are quite fortunate compared to some. But I think smacking children should be banned in the UK.

 

7.) How does the work of the European Union and the United Nations affect Equality & Human Rights in the UK?

A lot of our equality laws come from Europe & I think its important to have some standards across Europe. The UN also give new issues we have thought about

 

8.) Do you think more should be done to promote knowledge of Human Rights? What is being done forHuman Rights Day 2010 on the 10th December? Is it enough? What can we do to help?

   

Yes I think more should be done. I would like everyone to look at our DVD, there is a quiz on the website.
We have a few ideas and have launched things like Dignity Driveyou were looking at earlier.

 

9.) Do you work closely with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales? How do you involve young people in your work?

Yes we do work closely with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales?
We had a competition for young people to make a cartoon about bullying which Coryton Primary won; You are here today which shows how keen we are to involve young people and we go to lots of conferences such as the Anti bullying conference on Friday.

 

10.) Children from poorer backgrounds do not get the same life chances such as education as those from richer. How can you help tackle that?

We have just produced a report called “How Fair is Britain” asking government and schools to tackle the important issues outlined in that.

You can see one of our Ambassadors presenting at the Wales Child Poverty Conference later on that week with the Save the Children Group.

 

11.) Are discrimination laws just a burden on business?

No they help businesses find those people that are best for the job and keep the best people for the job in work.

 

12.) Does positive discrimination fuel prejudice?

Some people need special help to get a fair chance. In our old building people could not get in if they were wheelchair users, as you seen we have special facilities here such as easy opening doors to let everyone get in.

 

13.) Do you think the EHRC gets a ‘good press’? Should the UK be proud of its record on Equality & Human Rights? Is there a lot more work to do?

I like to think that we do. The UK has got a good record but there is a lot more to do. We have made major changes in the past fifty years but in the next 50 years will make an even fairer society.

 

14.) How far can you go to respect other cultures rights & beliefs? Do you think sharia law and Jewish courts have a place in the UK?

I think that we have to try very hard to respect other cultures and beliefs and make everyone feel that they can contribute to society. If we are horrible to people they do not feel that they are able to do their best.

 

15.) Does it worry you about the way some people reported on the banning of the Burka in France? Do you think it would be a positive step for all of Europe to follow?

No I do not think we should ban the burka, I think it is more important that we all understand other peoples cultures.

 

16.) What were you like at school Teachers Pet or trouble? Did you ever get sent to the head teacher for being naughty

I am afraid that I was trouble. I was always talking too much and when the teacher caught me often had to stand in the front of the class. I also used to work together with the girl who sat next to me she would do the first few questions and I would do the last few then share the answers. I thought it was great team work but the teacher was not so impressed.

 

17.) Do you recycle in your office & switch off unused lights etc?

We certainly do, you saw the recycle bins earlier on your tour but the lights here switch off automatically if no one is in the room( or stay still for too long)
Simon here is a member of GREEN GROUP which look at such issues throughout the country, last week we had a Green Action Day, we video conference across the UK sharing ideas and good practice, we also had someone dressed up as a solar panel and recycling so we have fun doing it too.

 

18.) We have partner school in Kenya whom we exchange letters with? Did you enjoy your visit to Kenya, what was it like? Did you look at Human Rights & Equality there or was it strictly fun?

I had a wonderful time in Kenya, it was mostly fun and I saw some fantastic animals. I was interested in some people in Kenya working to grow roses that get sent to the UK, put there appears to be higher amounts of chemicals used and it could be very dangerous for the workers. It is important that there is trade and that these people have jobs but they should be safe wherever they live.

 

19.) Next week is anti-bullying week, what advice would you give someone being bullied? Were you ever bullied at school or in the workplace?

Talk to somebody about it, everyone can find someone to talk to. It might be your mum, a friend, teacher or someone who works in the school, but find someone to talk to. Bullying is worse when it is secret as soon as people know about it, it makes it difficult for the bully.

(Do not forget childline on 0800 1111 we have been working with in school too!)

 

20.) Do you think schools, government or somebody should teach pupils and adults about their Rights? What message would you give to young people?

Yes I think it is very important that people should know about their rights, and it would be good if schools could teach about it. There is lots of information on our website and you should ask people to look at it.

 

21.) When did you first get interested in Hedgehogs & why?

About 3 years ago a friend of mine told me that hedgehogs were under threat because of poisons in the garden and the increase in road traffic. Since then I have been helping and looking after them I have a three legged hedgehog called May in my garden.

Tip if you like hedgehogs go to this page and download the .pdf to make one - brilliant.

 

22.) What is the most important question that you never get asked?

“How can I help” for everyone needs to do a bit for this to be a fairer country and you need to go back and spread the word.

 

We mentioned that we can put a bit on our notice board and website and report back in our weekly parents newsletters.

 

WHAT WE LEARNT:-

 

One of our Ambassadors said that “Kate and her team are very nice. They all cared a great deal about their work and want everyone to get fair treatment in all aspects of their life.”
Our other Ambassador added ”I think it’s important that everyone knows their Rights, both children and adults. Why not look on their website www.equalityhumanrights.com for more information or Google ‘Dignity drive’ and have fun learning about Rights and why they are so important to all of us.”

 

Kate and Simon gave us some documents and brochures as well as some pencils and rulers to give out as prizes for our competition. We were also given FAIR BEAR the EHRC mascot and we took some pictures of him with Millie Banks which of course is the Millbank School mascot.

 

You can read about Human Rights on the Ministry of Justice, the EU has a website about what it describes as FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) page. You can see some of the UN reports on the UK here which includes things like discrimination against women. Of course the Equality & Human Rights Commission pages are probably the best for us- well we would say that they are lovely!


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