Today marks exactly a year since Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in the street, after just finishing a constituency meeting. She was the first UK politician killed in office since 1990.
However, in the wake of Jo’s tragic death the message has not been one of fear or hatred, instead embracing the messages Jo lived her life by – peace, unity, and, crucially, the idea that we have more in common than things that divide us.
A tireless human rights champion, both at home and abroad, Jo campaigned for women’s rights, the rights of refugees around the world, and the celebration of equality and diversity – all ideas central to the fundamental human rights we hold. As thousands across the country gather this weekend to honour the MP, we also pay tribute to a fearless human rights champion.
Human Rights at Home and Abroad
Image Credit: The Jo Cox Foundation
Both before and after being elected as an MP in 2015, Jo was an champion for women’s rights. Working at Oxfam for eight years she focussed on women and children’s rights across the globe, calling for positive change to improve lives. She then spent three years at the White Ribbon Alliance, working to reduce deaths in childbirth, as well as playing a key role in bringing together a coalition of women’s rights groups for the centenary of International Women’s Day in 2011. Working with Sarah Brown whilst her husband was Prime Minister, Jo successfully pushed for the first ever Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health.
As an MP she continued to fight for human rights, championing the causes of those in places such as Syria, Yemen, and Sudan. She was co-chair of the Friends of Syria group in Parliament, frequently using her platform to highlight “deadly” human rights abuses. On Human Rights Day 2015, her first year in Parliament, she commented:
We take so many rights and freedoms for granted, but Human Rights Day provides us with an opportunity to remember that people all over the world are still fighting for their rights – we must stand in solidarity with them and do all we can to promote and protect human rights, both here in the UK and across the world.
As well as using her platform to speak out, Jo also created tangible change – backing and mobilising support for a successful 2016 amendment to bring more unaccompanied child refugees stranded in Europe to the UK. It is these values of empowering women and protecting civilians in conflict that live on through the Jo Cox Foundation, which continues to work across the globe in her name.
— RightsInfo (@rights_info) June 16, 2017
In her very first speech to Parliament in 2015, Jo spoke passionately about her constituency made up of “independent, no-nonsense, and proud Yorkshire towns and villages,” adding, “it is a joy to represent such a diverse community”.
While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.
Equality, unity, and the very idea of having more in common than not is the fundamental basis of our human rights. We are all entitled to the same freedoms and protections wherever we are in the world, and wherever we sit on the political spectrum – and can achieve so much more by working together. In times of crisis, tragedy, or difficulty this is the legacy Jo has left us, and the one we should look to.
You can see the events happening this weekend across the country in Jo’s memory here.