"Opportunities amplify the voices of young people" - Clara's story

As part of our Year of Young People legacy event at Meldrum Academy recently, a number of outstanding young people from across Aberdeenshire were invited to speak about their experiences. 

Clara Gray (17) attends Aboyne Academy and lives in Lumphanan. She was asked to speak at the event as a human rights defender who has been able to gain experience at a European as well as national level. 

As Clara explained: “I promote and protect the human rights of other people. It’s often seen as something adults do but right now organisations like Scottish Parliament and the Children and Young People’s Youth Office are keen to support young people to become human rights defenders too. It’s important to me because I believe everyone’s rights are important and that everyone should be treated equally, and everyone should be able to grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding.” 

Clara’s journey as a human rights defender began when she responded to an ad by the Scottish Children’s Commissioner on Twitter to become a young adviser. That led her to taking part in monthly meetings in Edinburgh for a year, getting involved in activities such as planning Scotland’s first Young People’s National Human Rights Gathering in November 2017. In April 2018 the team presented a strategic plan to Scottish Government on human rights and from there she was lucky enough to get the opportunity to represent Scotland in the European Network of Young Advisers (ENYA). As part of ENYA Clara went to Paris to discuss mental health provision across Europe with peers from other countries and come up with ideas about how young people could be better supported. 

Reflecting on this experience Clara said: “I had never been to Paris before and it was incredible. We had to come up with a 2.5 hours-long presentation/workshop for commissioners from across Europe. It was a really good way of doing it because we heard how our thoughts and views were potentially going to be used to influence policy, legislation and practice across Europe.” 

In Paris Clara was also given the opportunity to interview the UN special representative on violence against children during a river cruise along the River Siene. She used the opportunity to discuss the minimum age of criminal responsibility, equal protection from assault and incorporating the Rights of the Child into Scots Law. Clara explained: “I feel like we live in a bit of a bubble in Aberdeenshire and I got to escape from that for a little bit. It was quite amazing to see what progress needs to be done nationally and internationally, and how Scotland stands in that. 

“These opportunities amplify the voices of young people. I hope the Year of Young People and its focus leads to other young people being able to have similar experiences.” 

The event was organized by #YOYP2018 ambassadors and Aberdeenshire Youth Forum members themselves with the support of our Work With Young People team within Community Learning and Development. 

Cllr Gillian Owen, Chair of the Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee commented: “We are working to ensure young people continue to be heard long after the Year of Young People – through the Children and Young People’s Charter, through regular discussion with our young representatives and by continuing to explore new ways to engage with young people in the future.” 

Clara and others’ voices are being heard. If you’d like to find out more about how our youth work team could help you, find them on Facebook or Twitter @WWYPabshire, get in touch with your local youth forum or visit http://www.girfec-aberdeenshire.org/home/children-and-young-people/get-involved-youth-participation-and-engagement-in-aberdeenshire/ for details of youth participation and engagement opportunities across Aberdeenshire.