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Zambia youth impress UN Secretary-General with their grasp of human rights

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon meets high school human rights club members in Livingstone during his first mission to Zambia. UN Volunteer Mwenzi Katolo helped organize the students' presentation on human rights for the Secretary-General. (Georgina Smith, 2012)UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon meets high school human rights club members in Livingstone during his first mission to Zambia. UN Volunteer Mwenzi Katolo helped organize the students' presentation on human rights for the Secretary-General. (Georgina Smith, 2012)National UN Volunteer Mwenzi Katolo, a UNV Human Rights Officer in Livingstone, Zambia, looks on as high school human rights club members give the special presentation she helped organize for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during his visit in February. (Georgina Smith, 2012)National UN Volunteer Mwenzi Katolo, a UNV Human Rights Officer in Livingstone, Zambia, looks on as high school human rights club members give the special presentation she helped organize for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during his visit in February. (Georgina Smith, 2012)
29 February 2012

Livingstone, Zambia: On 26 February 2012, UN News reported that upon concluding his first visit to Zambia, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he left the country convinced that it has a bright future, especially because of the commitment of the younger generation to democratic principles, human rights and education.

“In Livingstone, I had a very impressive and inspiring meeting with young girl students and boy students,” Mr. Ban told reporters at the airport before leaving Zambia for Angola.

“I was very much impressed by the way they are committed, how much they know about democratic principles and particularly human rights.”

These words are particularly gratifying to UN Volunteer Mwenzi Katolo, a UNV Human Rights Officer with Zambia’s Human Rights Commission in Livingstone, since she was on the meeting’s organizing team.

“The Secretary-General attended a program of skits and talks on key human rights issues presented by 13 to 17-year-old students who are members of human rights clubs at four local high schools,” said Mwenzi.

“The students addressed the right to education, the right of vulnerable children such as street kids to protection, and the right to protection from gender based violence, among others,” Mwenzi said.

“Afterwards, Mr. Ban addressed the audience which included 100 student club members from Hillcrest High School, which hosted the event, and the participating St. Mary’s, St Raphael and David Livingstone High Schools.”

UN News reported that Mr. Ban said, “… From their questions and points of view I was convinced that this country has a brighter future, not only because you are having a lot of mineral and natural resources, but you have also very good human resources in my observation.”

Across Zambia, high school human rights clubs sensitize and educate the wider community about their civil and political rights, such as Zambia’s Rights of the Child, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights.  With typical memberships of more than 30 students, the clubs are vital to spreading the human rights message to remote communities and schools.

“On holidays and international days, such as the Day of the African Child, International Women’s Day and Youth Day, club members go to rural areas and hold sporting events, talks and plays,” said Mwenzi, who is responsible for claims pertaining to children in the HRC's Livingstone office.

“They talk to the children while keeping their eyes and ears open for anyone who may wish to report human rights violations to the Commission,” she said.

In Zambia, UNV and UNDP are supporting the capacity development of the national Human Rights Commission in a project spanning three years. International UN Volunteer Bairbre Fee (Ireland), the UNV Project Officer for the Human Rights project, also worked on the logistics for Mr. Ban's visit with the human rights clubs in Livingstone.

Three national UN Volunteers currently serve as Human Rights Officers in the country.  

“The Secretary-General identified youth as a priority in his new 5-Year Action Agenda and his visit with some of the hundreds of young community volunteers who make up the human rights clubs in Zambia exemplifies this commitment,” said Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of UNV.

UNV's chief added, “To help advance this agenda, the Secretary-General has committed the UN system to develop and implement an action plan, create a  youth volunteer programme under the umbrella of the UN Volunteers and appoint a new Special Adviser for Youth.”

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)