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Monthly Archives: March 2012

I don’t want to write about Grace’s video myself. Not from a political point, anyway. Musically, it’s seriously impressive, and I really liked it. But, when it comes to child soldiers, especially in light of what happened with Kony2012, I don’t feel I know enough to write a useful post. So, instead, try these links if you’re interested. ChildVoice International, the charity Grace was working with when she shot her video     Rosabell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist, talking about StopKony Ethan Zuckerman analysis of Kony 2012 Invisible Children (producers of the StopKony video) Visible Children’s links page, a good source for more information and debate

By this point, I’m sure anyone who wants to see the StopKony video has seen it, so I won’t bother with a link.


Recently BYC volunteers went to the Youth Budget Conference, “Paying for it”, an event to discuss young people’s opinions on this year’s government budget. There was a panel who took questions, this was made up of MPs David Gauke, James Morris and Kate Green, Carl Emmerson (Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies), and James Cathcart (CEO of the British Youth Council). The event ended with Isaac Warburton (winner of the Citizenship Foundations “Chance to be Chancellor” competition) handing a Youth Budget Report giving the opinions of the young people involved in “Chance to be Chancellor” to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

I found many of the opinions in the Youth Budget Report surprising. Sixty nine percent of young people involved in “Chance to be Chancellor” would cut more than the government to reduce spending and the deficit. I had assumed that since young people are so reliant on government services, they would be well aware of the impact of government cuts.

One of the British Youth Council’s priority campaigns, as chosen by young people, is “Save our services”, a campaign to reduce the impact of government cuts on youth services. Someone from the Citizenship Foundation, at the end of the event, admitted to us that the young people involved in the Youth Budget Report 2012 and “Chance to be Chancellor” competition were not a representative group of young people[1], which might explain the differences. As the report was only given to the government very shortly before the budget came into force, I doubt that there was time for it to be considered by the government. Otherwise, I might worry about which young people were allowed to speak for us all, and why.

The budget itself, which passed into law last Wednesday, was controversial because of the reduction of higher rate tax, at a time when ordinary people are facing severe cuts.[2] If anyone’s interested in more detail on the latest budget as a whole, I’d recommend the guardian’s diagram, or more detailed tables.

[1] It seemed to me that there was a surprisingly low number of Black and Minority Ethnic young people, young people from lower income families, and young people with disabilities at the event.

[2]A few links to give you an idea of the cuts I’m talking about.   Welfare Reform, children and people with disabilities or Sexual Health Services or EMA or charging people to use the Child Support Agency. These are just the ones I could find in a hurry – I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about, or couldn’t find a decent source for.

Beatbullying, a UK based anti-bullying charity, organised an on-line march against bullying last week. Thousands of people across the world took part, asking the UN to add the right to be safe from bullying to the Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

If the campaign is successful, this will be the first change to Rights of the Child in over a decade. Currently, these rights include the right to education, the right to relax and play, and the right to a home and family life. But, for millions of children, those rights are not a reality. So, is there any point adding bullying to the declaration? Or would it just become another ignored right?

We don’t even know how to recognise, let alone prevent bullying. Most schools, admittedly not all, already have some kind of anti-bullying program. Posters and talks, or a peer mentoring scheme, or a “safe room” for victims of bullying during lunch and breaks. But do any of these actually work? We don’t even know. So would a legal obligation to fund them improve things? Not necessarily.

But, then, nothing I campaign for is a perfect solution. I know that. Nothing I believe in can be proved without doubt. I know that too.  Why do I expect perfection from anti-bullying work, then? I’ve taken part in peer-mentoring schemes, I know they can help people, even if they don’t help everyone. Raising awareness of bullying might not stop bullying, but it might make it easier for victims / survivors to recognise what happened, and get help if they need it. I’m sure the same is true of other schemes, that I’ve not worked with.

All of this is important. Bullying is often seen as a trivial issue only affecting a small number of people. Unfortunately, that’s not true. About twenty children or young people commit suicide every year because of bullying[1], and nearly half f young people have been bullied at some point in their lives[2]. I want to do something about that, if I can.

By adding safety from bullying to the Rights of the Child, we raise the profile of this issue. It could force our government, and others, to fund anti-bullying schemes better. It could give children and young people a recourse, if their school or college doesn’t do anything to prevent bullying.

So, I signed Beatullying’s petition (, and I’m asking you to do the same. Because, yes, we all deserve the right to be safe from bullying.  Because I want our governments to be held accountable for stopping this. Because it’s a start.

BYC volunteers Andre and Grace interviewing people at the Equality 4U event

Video Transcript Read More »

This Friday a group of British Youth Council volunteers joined other young people at an Equality 4U event in Stafford. The event’s purpose was to explore four key human rights campaigns. For more information about the event itself please see its website, or see the article going up on the British Youth Council’s website about the event. Of course, a single day isn’t nearly enough time to discuss any of these topics. It was an eye-opener. A starting point for conversations, and ideas.

We split up into four distinct work-shops, one for disability rights, one for BME[1] rights, one for women’s rights, and one for LGBT[2] rights. It’s a reasonably good way of dividing the conversations for a one day course. But in real life, people aren’t that simple. Many, maybe even most, people could identify as more than one of those things. How about a Black, gay man, who faces racism from some elements of the LGBT community, homophobia from some members of the Black community, and both from some other people? Or a women with disabilities, at greater risk of domestic violence than a woman without disabilities[3], but not able to access many rape crisis centres and women’s spaces?

There are already groups who are working on issues of equality that affect people with different identities. One of these is PISSAR, or People in Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms, which was started by students at the Universityof California, to improve bathroom accessibility. The group is largely made up of people who don’t conform to gender norms, people with disabilities, and people who care for small children. They also recognise how important access to toilets is for street homeless people, but don’t have any plans to help solve that yet. A copy of the PISSAR checklist is up online here. Briefly, it includes whether the toilet is in an isolated space, whether it is fully accessible (grab rails, height of soap and pad/tampon dispensers, width of doors, etc), whether there are gender-neutral toilets, and whether there is a changing table. By refusing to ignore issues that are awkward or embarrassing, or to see these issues as trivial, they are tackling problems that are too often sidelined or overlooked.

For a lot of people, it’s easy to assume that any bathroom we use will fit our needs. But for some of the members of this group, that’s not the case.

From my experience, issues of inequality and oppression can often work like this, affecting things most of us are never even aware of. Why would you notice the width of stalls, or height of soap dispensers, if you don’t use a wheelchair, and haven’t helped a friend or family member who uses a wheelchair to cope with public toilets? If no one you know is gender non-conforming, and is hassled in single gender spaces because their gender is confusing or hard to read, gender specific toilets would never seem problematic to you. And if you’ve never been a single dad, would it occur to you to worry if there are only changing tables in women’s toilets? Maybe this all seems a bit over-the-top too you, or petty, or just not as serious as real politics. But all of these issues are stupidly important to people’s ability to get on with their normal lives.

If we can find all of these issues in something as mundane as toilets, how many other invisible issues must there be? I want to shine a light on those problems. I want to talk about them. And, maybe more importantly, I want to listen, and learn to notice the world around me more. Because if we don’t even see the inequality in the world we live in, and the things we do every day, how can we begin to tackle these issues?

[1] BME stands for Black and Minority Ethnic. It was the term used by the event. I’ve been told that some people find the wording problematic, preferring to use Black as an umbrella term, or marginalised peoples, or People of Colour. But I’m not confident enough of that to re-phrase it, especially as I wouldn’t be sure what to change it to.

[2] LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. It has been adapted and extended into a variety of acronyms, including LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) and the more memorable and pronounceable QUILTBAG (Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay)

[3] According to Scapegoat by Katharine Quarmby