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Hearing from Creativity Group

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Creativity Group is one of our Hi-Tech Heroes. We recently had a chance to catch up with Abdul-kawiyu from Creativity Group to talk about their work and their ideas about using technology to help educate and empower young people. Here’s what Abdul told us:

How did Creativity Group first begin?

Creativity Group was first started by a group of students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in response to an inadequate environment for practical experience. The students wanted to undertake various innovative projects in order to maximize the knowledge they acquire from the University, solving problems in their communities and to encourage other students to do same.

Since then, Creativity Group has successfully opened branches in the five major Universities of the nation [Ghana] where students are trained, monitored and guided to use their field of study to solve problems of the community using science and technology.

What’s an example of the type of project that Creativity Group members have worked on?

One good example is the uServe. The uServe is a microserver device which uses offline technology to provide educational content to rural and remote schools that cannot access or afford internet service. In this marvellous device, we successfully compiled the data of the most educative websites. The system can also periodically connect Itself to the internet to upgrade its content. It is designed and programmed to provide internet-like service through wireless and cable connection.

The uServe seems like an interesting way to provide resources from the Internet in places where online access is difficult. What other ways do you think the Internet can be useful for young people?

The Internet is important for the Right to Education because it can provide fair and easily accessible educational material to all students across the globe.

It also provides the platform to undertake courses online without going through the hassle of transportation, feeding and accommodation which deny a lot of people from literacy over the years. And, the Internet is also a source to harness information from human rights protection organizations.

“The vision of the Creativity Group is to see an Africa where the youth understands the importance of science and technology, where youth is abreast with the globally changing technology and can utilize it in solving their own personal, community and national problems without waiting for a third party.”

So, as well as Education, the Internet can be a good way for young people to find out more about their rights and the world around them. That’s not always easy to achieve though is it?

True. Creativity Group is interested in science and technology in relation to children’s rights and children’s empowerment. Children have the right to education; they also have the right to good health care. The internet, drones and sophisticated health machines like the X-ray and ultrasonic devices enhance children’s health, health care education and education in general.

But we are in a generation where a lot of people are still technologically blind, with almost no hope of overcoming this blindness, and that is to talk of some adult Africans. The coming generation of students should therefore be inspired and motivated into embracing and utilizing science and technology in an early age to overcome this current sympathetic canker.

So Creativity Group isn’t just interested in the Internet, but also in other technologies?

That’s right. Many of our projects are about technology and children’s rights. For example, uServe provides online educational materials to children in deprived communities which protects their rights to education. Our Smart Water Control project enhances the lifespan of water pumping machines in basic schools which provide them with clean water for good health. And we are currently building a Health Care Drone to distribute drugs and other healthcare materials to clinics in rural areas during emergency situations.

That’s really impressive! What would your advice be to other young people who are interested in the work you do?

Our advice to the youth of Ghana and Africa as a whole is to come together and start solving their own community problems with what they have and what they know. It doesn’t take so much to be innovative and creative and it doesn’t take so much to be a problem solver, all that is needed is the desire, hard work and dedication.

Thanks very much for talking to us Abdul. Is there a final message you’d like to give to all our RErights agents around the world?

Creativity Group undertakes innovative projects geared towards solving specific community problems. As societal needs change, these solutions must be updated to meet current needs.

The vision of the Creativity Group is to see an Africa where youth understand the importance of science and technology, where youth is abreast with globally changing technology and can utilize it in solving their own personal, community and national problems without waiting for a third party.

 

 

We’d like to say a big thanks to Abdul and the rest of team at Creativity Group for taking the time to talk to us about the really great work they’re doing with young people in Ghana and around Africa. And, we also really appreciate their support for RErights!

If you’d like more information about Creativity Group, visit their web site: www.creativitygroup.org

Catching Up With Ingrid

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Our Hi-Tech Hero, Ingrid Soto from Brazil, shared some thoughts with us about the power of music, the potential of young people, and how to change the world. Thanks, Ingrid!

You hold campaigns to donate books and toys to refugee children arriving in Brazil. Why did you choose to focus your work on this group? How many children have you reached, and how much have you donated since you started?
Well, when I was a little girl I saw children suffering on TV in wars and having to leave their countries to ensure their right to life, peace and freedom. I felt I could not continue sitting there watching all those atrocities happen. Because they were children like me and I thought that even while I was in my house, the houses of children and innocent families are being bombed. I was deeply moved by their situation, and I wanted to help them in some way. For 4 years I have run toy and books collection campaigns. In the first year of the campaign, I had the support of the UN, but it was very hard to collect toys because people did not understand what it was like to “be in a refugee situation,” so I needed donations of enterprises! The campaign began to grow in an incredible way as society began to have access to more information about the largest humanitarian tragedy that we are living in. Now, young people and schools are collaborating a lot more. Last year, I raised more than 10,000 toys, so I needed a truck to transport the donations and divide it between two institutions that host families and refugee children. I do not know how many refugee children I have reached with the campaign, because there are many children arriving in Brazil. The only thing I know is that this campaign means that refugee children feel more welcomed and loved. Each look of joy is as though you are saving the world, and rescuing hope.

You’re a very active member in the RErights community – we’ve loved hearing what you think about rights and digital technology. How is your work related to RErights?
My work is very related to RErights because by using technology, I am fighting for human rights and the rights of children. Also with music, I’m taking the message that we (the youth) can change the world, because we are the future of the nation and the adults need to hear us to support positive change in the world.

Which rights does your work promote for young people? Do you think that the digital era has impacted on your rights in any way?
I’m always promoting the rights of liberty of expression, encouraging the empowerment of girls, the right to life and the protection of children at risk. Technology helps directly in my right to: liberty of expression, access to information and the right to be heard.

You also call yourself a pacifist singer! What does this mean to you? How do you think music can change the world?
I love be a pacifist singer. For me to be pacifist means that I can help influence and empower the youth to be the positive change that we want for the world, and I always need to be tuned to the real world and real facts. I love to write what I dream and what I wish for our world, especially knowing that I can inspire other young people. I think that when we dream of other people they start to dream of you and I found in music a way to communicate. Music unites people in a fantastic way that brings hope and love to our humanity without distinction of religion, race, color and social class.

I’m taking the message that we (the youth) can change the world, because we are the future of the nation and the adults need to hear us to support positive change in the world.

Your work is based mostly on the internet. Can you explain how technology has enabled you to do your work? What are the advantages of the technology we have available today?
With the internet I can communicate, share my music and share with people my campaigns of donation of toys and books. The advantages of utilizing technology include being able to reach people from around the world, awaken solidarity and mobilize people to change the world.

You’ve accomplished a lot at 14 years old! Why do you think it’s important for young people to have their voices heard? In what ways could young people be more involved in decision-making?
I think I have a lot to do yet. We the youth of the new generation have to have our voices heard, because we want not only a future but a better present, and yes we can help to change the world. Adults should pay more attention to our ideals, and see that we can make decisions, participate in debates about our rights, create art, and access quality education. All these ways help youth to develop and together find the way to development.

You wrote your first email to the United Nations at 10 years old! That’s impressive. What advice do you have for other young people wanting to use technology to make change in their community?
At ten years old while surfing on the UN website, I realized that I could help adults in my way. We the youth, we have a big potential, and with the internet it has becme easier, with one click we can know everything around us, and we have in our hands a great communication tool. Believe in your dreams and in your potential! With your potential, use the Internet in a positive way, promote better change in the world and reach more people for the good. Yes you can improve everything! Remember that everything starts very small, with much effort, planning and dedication, you will see the transformation happen in your family, in your community, in your city, step-by-step and together we are transforming the world.

Technology has developed so much in recent years. So in just a few more years, it could almost be unrecognisable! Given that your work is technology based, where would you like to see your work go?
I want to continue singing and doing campaigns for refugee children and protect children in high risk situations, and reach more people in the world for good through music. But we cannot forget that in real life, everything only becomes possible if we put it into practice in our daily life. Because of this, I like to give lectures and shows so that I can see the people, the brightness from the eyes and see the change that happens in reality. I dream to be an ambassador of UNICEF to encourage people to help. Also I really want to participate in UN debates. Since I was little, I wished to mobilize various singers from different continents to sing together in support of the protection of refugee children and I am trying to mobilize artists to this action. And so, I keep singing instead of silencing our dreams.

A chat with Gabby

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We had a chat to one of our Hi-Tech Heroes, Gabby Frost, about her work, technology and rights. Read on to hear what she had to say!

Buddy Project has paired over 100,000 buddies! That’s a great achievement. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to start Buddy Project, and what steps you took to set it up?
I was inspired to create Buddy Project after having friends from school and Twitter who went through mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm addiction, and suicidal thoughts. They always told me that they appreciated my friendship because it helped them stay strong and push to recover. I always remembered this, and it helped create Buddy Project. One night while I was on Twitter, there were 3 girls who were contemplating suicide. After tweeting them support, I pondered how I could prevent people from committing suicide. I noticed the 3 girls all tweeted that they didn’t have a supportive family or any friends. This is when I remembered what my friends had told me, and I knew I had to create a system where people could receive a buddy so they wouldn’t be alone. Setting this up was a bit easy for me, since I’ve been using the computer often since I was younger. I had to set up a Twitter account to promote the idea and I used Google Forms to get the submissions for a buddy.

What is the process of pairing buddies – how do people sign up? What do you look for when pairing people? Which internet platforms do you use to pair them?
People can now sign up on Buddy Project’s website at www.buddy-project.org/signup. All you need to provide is your first name, Twitter username (or Tumblr now!), age, and two of your interests. When I pair people, I put together people who share their first choice interest or their second choice interest depending on how many people signed up with certain interests. I use the website to pair the buddies.

What does a relationship with a ‘buddy’ look like? How do they interact? Is their relationship entirely internet-based? What do buddies do together? Do you have a favourite success story from your project?
A relationship with a buddy can looks like many different things. Some people take the relationship to their full advantage and become best friends. Whether they just talk over Twitter, text message, Skype, FaceTime, or meet in person, the relationships between buddies are very beneficial. They have someone that’s there for them when they just need a friend, and that’s super important. Everyone deserves to have someone in their lives that will push them to be a better person and be supportive, and the buddies are giving these people exactly that. I don’t have a favorite success story because all of the ones that I’ve seen are truly incredible. There’s been a few buddies who have actually met in person, either at a concert or at the airport. Seeing people who connected solely over the internet meet in person is such a powerful thing to see.

“I think that social media positively affects mental health because a lot of people are able to see that they’re not alone much easier. They’re exposed to millions of other people, many who could have the same mental illness as them.”

What do you think are the benefits of using social media for your work? Do you think there is a relationship between the ability of social media to connect people, and mental health (positive or negative)?
Social media is definitely beneficial because I can connect people from all over the world. I think that social media positively affects mental health because a lot of people are able to see that they’re not alone much easier. They’re exposed to millions of other people, many who could have the same mental illness as them. Even though society pushes negative standards against us using media sometimes, I think it does more help than hurt. Bringing thousands of people together to fight the stigma of mental illness would never have been done in person; thanks to the Internet, I was able to do so using Twitter.

You mentioned that you think the stigma of mental health is toxic. How could we overcome this stigma? In what ways do you think mental health could be better addressed among young people?
I think that the stigma of mental health can only be overcome with education, kindness, and empathy. If we educate the world on what the reality behind mental health is, no one would be ignorant and think completely false things about it. I think schools need to put forth a better effort with educating students in schools about mental health. In my personal experience, I was only educated about mental health in 10th grade for a 1/4th of the year and the class only met every 3 school days. I feel like mental health deserves a good chunk of the year and should be retaught every 2-3 years starting when students are pre-teens. Puberty is the beginning of children’s bodies changing, and often their mental health can change as well.
We also need to spread kindness and be empathetic. There’s too many negative people in the world who will rain on anyone’s parade for no reason, or they’ll shut out how someone is feeling simply because they don’t understand. If we teach people how to see something from another person’s perspective, it could help out immensely.

What rights do you see your work promoting for young people? Do you think that the digital era has impacted on your rights in any way?
I think it gives young people rights because it allows them to see a vast amount of information about mental health as well as sexuality and gender identity. Without the Internet, some people wouldn’t be able to educate themselves on this kind of information. It also gives young people power to talk to whomever they’d like, which relates to the most important right: freedom of speech. Young people have easy access to write how they feel and can start revolutions that include thousands of people. The Internet and social media do a good job at assembling people from all over the world who all believe in the same thing and want to make a change.

You’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age. As a young person, have you experienced any hurdles in getting this far? What advice would you give to other young people who were hoping to use technology to make change in the world?
I’ve experienced a few hurdles, which are mainly due to not knowing how certain technology works. When I first started pairing buddies, I had no idea how to do it in an efficient way. Luckily my mom was able to help me out and I jumped over the first hurdle. After that, I couldn’t figure out how to have a professional website and present myself in a more professional way. Throughout the past 3 years of running Buddy Project, I’ve matured from a 15-year-old high school freshman to an 18-year-old incoming college freshman. I slowly jumped past that hurdle over time. The hurdle I’m trying to overcome at the moment is creating an app and more complex website. I also want to start fundraising and holding events since Buddy Project became a 501(c)(3) organization in December. I’m hopefully going to learn how to code soon in order to accomplish this and hope I’ll be able to advance to whatever challenges the next hurdle will bring me.

Technology has developed so much in recent years. So in just a few more years, it could almost be unrecognisable! Given that your work is technology based, where would you like to see your work go?
I would love for Buddy Project to become its own social networking site that people can have their own username/password for. It would also be awesome for it to be used all over the world in the different continents.

 

 

Announcing our Hi-Tech Heroes!

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We asked you to nominate young people who are enhancing their rights through the use of digital media. We had so many inspiring applicants, and we’re excited to announce our 3 amazing Hi-Tech Heroes!

Gabby Frost is an 18 year old from the USA and the founder of the Buddy Project, an organisation aiming to prevent suicide and self-harm by pairing people as buddies. Using the power of social media to connect people, Gabby is helping to raise awareness of mental illness and bringing a better quality of life to young people around the world.

14 year old, Ingrid Soto from Brazil is using her musical talents to sing for a better world by writing and performing pacifist songs. She also organises campaigns to donate toys and books to refugee children arriving in Brazil. Ingrid uses the internet to spread the message of her music, as well as to connect and involve other young people in her campaigns.

Creativity Group is a community of students from Ghana who are using technology, such as electronics, 3D printing, and web and mobile programming to engage with social issues and offer solutions for sustainable development within their communities. One of their projects is delivering an offline version of the internet to children in remote parts of Ghana, and helping them to realise their right to education.

We’re so excited to have these remarkable young people as ambassadors of the RErights community. We’ll be getting to know our Heroes in more depth over the next few weeks – so stay tuned!

Role Models

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If you could be someone else for a day, who would you want to be? Let’s take a quick look at our tally to date: Emma Watson is in the lead, with a mention from Agents in Belgium, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Next is actually a tie between Taylor Swift and Ellen DeGeneres. The celebrities you’ve listed in Mission Profile are a colourful mix of people from all walks of life! So, who do you admire, who inspires you?

04_ReRights_Profile_Celebs_V2

 

Actors are the most represented, but singers, writers, models, journalists, scientists, TV and sports stars are also listed. Take a look at the list on the infographic, do you know all the names on that list? Are you surprised by some? It’s why you chose those celebrities that is particularly interesting though. There are three broad reasons why you find people inspiring:

  1. skills and career
  2. qualities and attributes
  3. social or political engagement

You admire people for the amazing skills or the talents that they have: award-winning actor, champion beatboxer. You also chose celebrities who share your passions or pursue a career that you aspire to: the model, the journalist, the footballer, the equestrian whose achievements inspire you to also become a model, a journalist, a footballer, or an equestrian. Of course, you find many of those celebrities to be fun and beautiful, but you also value their other qualities: they are smart, witty, humorous, responsible, positive, they have integrity. Intelligence, confidence and resilience appear to be the ultimate attributes that make the difference between someone you like and someone you actually admire. You are inspired by the confidence of those who ‘know what they want to do with their life’, who ‘speak their mind’, and you like how ‘strong’ they are, how they are able to ‘brush off hatred and criticism’ and ‘don’t let anybody bring them down’. You picked those celebrities because they stand up for themselves.

But are they role models for you? Some of the names that you listed may be controversial to some, does it matter? Can you admire someone for one thing yet not approve of another thing they say or do? Or can a controversy cast a shadow over everything a person does?

What do you look for in a role model?

And there is another thing: more than just those strengths, talents and skills, something else really matters to you, and that is how celebrities use their skills, status, fame, wealth or other attributes to advocate for the causes they believe in, for the ‘betterment of society’. You find their social and political engagement especially inspiring and you picked people who ‘make a change in the world’, ‘stand up for rights’, ‘fight for the truth’. The causes they defend and their contribution to the community and those in need is something that really appeals to you. Is this because of their attitude or because you support the same causes?

Do you aspire to make a difference too?

May be the next step is right there for you to make. By joining our community and sharing your experiences and opinions about your rights, you actively participate and make yourself heard. Keep going, complete your next mission or leave a comment on this post!

Vote for your favourite definition

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Operation 2: Mission 1 asks what does the word ‘rights’ mean to you?

Here are some of the definitions that we have received from our agents.

  1. A right needs to be held with the highest level of integrity
  2. An entitlement to something
  3. To protect people against terror, torture and deprivation of freedom.
  4. Rights are not privileges; rights are entitlements which have to be guarded with moral responsibility and should never be taken advantage of.
  5. Rights refer to the need for us to get what we need, better known as basic needs, without any interference or disturbance by others who will act as external forces which may jeopardize the rights or needs of a child.
  6. Rights are inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.
  7. Rights are created for all mankind, to have a common good and peace with in the society.
  8. Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world.
  9. A right is something everybody should be allowed to have access to.
  10. Having the freedom to do anything and regardless of colour, race, or where you come from.

Which one do you like the best? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

 

Call for Nominations: Hi-Tech Heroes

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Do you know any young people using technology to make a positive change?

Young people all over the world are doing exciting things with digital technology. We want to showcase the potential of these Hi-Tech Heroes to influence positive change and enhance children’s rights.

In 2014, we featured a number of these young people from around the world. Shruti Rai from India uses digital storytelling to highlight important issues such as child marriage, and teaches other young people to do the same. Recently, she has initiated a global digital literacy project called “Four Birds and One Million Stories” which has reached thousands of young people around the world.

Also from India, Kartik Sawhney, a blind student, developed his own audio graph-reading software so that he could pursue his study of sciences in years 11 and 12. His skills in computer programming allowed him to access his right to education and highlighted challenges facing vision-impaired children in developing countries. He now studies computer sciences at Stanford University in the USA.

In Brazil, Rene Silva started a community newspaper at 11 years old in his neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. His newspaper highlights social issues, such as drug trafficking and healthcare, which affect his community. More recently, he created the Network Voice of the Communities which brings together 17 young people from different states of Brazil to give voice to their communities. He believes digital connectivity is crucial for young people to claim their rights.

RErights is looking for more inspiring Hi-Tech Heroes! If you know any young people, or groups of young people, under the age of 18 who are using technology to make a difference to their lives and the lives of others, make a nomination here.

First round nominations close on Wednesday, 4th May.