The Korea International School held this year’s Human Rights Week via Zoom on April 19 with middle and high school students and faculty members, featuring guest speakers whose own experiences illustrate the importance of knowing and responding to current social issues.
HRW is organized by the KIS Human Rights Initiative, a group of 13 students. With the theme of “Removing the Mask on Social Pandemics,” HRW centered its daily sessions on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The sessions focused on: Responsible consumption and production; sustainable cities and communities; peace, justice and strong institutions; gender equality; and reduced inequality.
Guest speakers included Jonathan Hanta, a Congolese refugee who has lived in Korea since childhood, and Heather Barr, the interim co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. Often, a personal story or connection to an issue inspires empathy. The KHRI hopes to empower all students to act upon awareness, the school said.
Many KIS students are familiar with the UN SDGs. Its teachers in recent years have incorporated these goals into lessons and activities, familiarizing students with global concerns and helping them to think about the relevance of these issues in their own lives and communities.
KHRI partners with teachers to implement UN SDGs at KIS. For example, a simple, tangible response to the goal of responsible consumption and production is to reduce single-use plastics. Or, to promote gender equality, sports coaches can check that boys’ and girls’ teams receive equal practice time on playing fields and courts.
KIS director Michelle Quirin said she is proud of KHRI’s initiative to connect UN SDGs to the school community through small group reflective sharing and calls to action. Each HRW session paired the guest speaker with a representative from a related KIS service project.
KHRI hopes that once students learn about an issue, they will seek ways to personally affect change.
This year’s featured KIS programs included the eco-friendly Bravo Club and the Social Justice League. Students Jenna and Lucy of the club reflect that applied knowledge of sustainable practices affects both present and future societies.
Emma of the Social Justice League believes that events like HRW make space to address issues, and is part of the process of change.
“Ask what you can do at this moment,” Emma said, “In your community.”
HKRI student leader Hannah is already thinking about the impact HKRI and HRW can have in the next school year. HKRI adviser Nate Samuelson is proud the student group brings awareness of the issues to the KIS community.
“A culture of awareness and empathy helps us incite change in our community,” he said.
KIS encourages those interested to explore the UN SDGs online and get involved to promote change and growth.
By The Korea Herald staff (email@example.com