Cecile Lansford hasn’t even sat her GCSEs yet, but she’s on a mission to get everyone talking about their human rights.
On top of her day job as a year eight pupil at Manor Academy in York, Cecile is part of York Human Rights City Network, a movement which has successfully established York as the first human rights city in the UK.
The declaration means organisations across York including the council and the police will now work to incorporate the values of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights into their decisions and practices. More generally, campaigners like Cecile hope it will make human rights ‘more real’ for locals in their everyday lives.
‘It’s one of the main reasons I’m here’
York Minster (Photo: Jack Satchell/RightsInfo)
“I discovered [the human rights network] through my school,” Cecile explains. She now works on the project in her spare time too, attending regular meetings to discuss human rights in York, and even organising her own human rights talk at the local library. Even as we speak now, she’s taking time out of her Easter holidays to focus on our rights. “I’m very lucky because I live in the Western world, and generally we have all our human rights, but I think it’s very important to appreciate them,” she says.
“Obviously the right to education affects me massively, because that’s one of the main reasons I’m here. The right to housing, I have a house, these all affect me. But I am also aware there are people who don’t have a house, even in York and this has helped me to notice that.”
‘Rights are not a far away thing’
Cecile and her mum (Photo: Jack Satchell/RightsInfo)
“I’d like a lot more people to be aware of what human rights are,” Cecile adds. “Because a surprising amount of people are not aware of what human rights actually are and how they’re relevant to us. And obviously I’d like everyone to be able to claim the rights they have. The right to education, the right to housing, the right to health and social care, but the first step to those is everyone actually understanding what their rights are.”
Cecile is also keen to stress how human rights are relevant to people in their daily lives – a key message of the human rights city project. “People when they think of human rights generally think about them as a far away thing, but they’re very relevant here, and I think helping to realise how relevant they are here, can help everyone to realise how we can help people who are very desperately in need of human rights.”
— RightsInfo (@rights_info) April 25, 2017
While the 13-year-old has a strong focus on York achieving its potential as a human rights city, she’s insistent that it’s a movement that can spread across the UK. “I don’t think there’s anything to stop what’s happening in York happening everywhere else, and it should happen everywhere else. Everyone should be aware of human rights and work to support them in their city. Human rights are universal, necessary and relevant.”
Want to know more about your human rights?
- See our long read on York as a human rights city
- Check out our explainers on what your human rights actually are
- See our timeline of how human rights have changed the world