Friends of Human Rights Defenders – a pilot scheme involving York residents

Mahatma Ghandi

Mahatma Ghandi

Among York’s many wonders, the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) is probably one of the most interesting.  Although part of York University, CAHR ‘s work goes beyond academia and focuses on the real, down to earth, human rights issues – both in England and around the world.  This year it is running a new pilot scheme that provides a positive and very interesting way in which York residents can be directly involved.


The centre offers a service whereby women and men who have been putting their energy into fighting for human rights in their own countries can spend time in York to recharge their batteries and have a rest in safety without fear or harassment.  This is unique in Europe, and York is a great place for it as the ‘human rights defenders’ can do short term studies at the Uni as well as learning English.  The centre provides furnished accommodation but, however pleasant and safe York may be, arriving tired (and often harassed after battling with entry visas and other such issues) in a strange country involves a lot more than unpacking  –  finding your way around can be exhausting and the culture shock can be huge and bewildering.  We have many strange and interesting customs and then there’s the weather …

So the pilot scheme is aimed at providing friendly support at this point, and possibly throughout the months the defenders stay in York.  This could involve making a one-to-one commitment to support an individual or offering particular resources or outings, such as information/help with schools, trips to the theatre or walks in the country.

It is a pilot scheme so the centre will be working out what works best and is open to bright ideas.  As there will be such a variety of cultures  –  people may come from Latin America, Africa, Palestine, Iran, Burma or anywhere where human rights are especially threatened  – and the scheme being so innovative, there are bound to be many pre-conceptions from both residents and defenders so a certain openness of mind would be called for.  For instance, women and men who come over as part of the scheme are in a very different situation to that of asylum seekers and refugees.


If you have ever felt frustrated with only being able to give armchair charity and support but aren’t in a position to go out defending human rights yourself, this is a wonderful opportunity.  You can enjoy the experience of meeting people with great spirit from entirely different backgrounds in the comfort of your own city.  You can contribute as much or as little as you choose – though obviously it is important to make your level of commitment clear.  If you are interested you can get in touch with Marilyn Crawshaw at CAHR either by phone (01904 702060) or email (Marilyn[dot]crawshaw[at]York[dot]ac[dot]uk)


If you are interested in contributing  to the Just York blog or want to find out more about Just York,  please see our website or contact jessica[dot]alys[atlive[dot]co[dot]uk

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