Italian Human Rights Advocates Unite to Save African Youth from Child Abuse

West Africa
26 September 2010

Dancing celebrates the  grand opening of a school in Twewaa, Ghana, funded by YHRI project, UNITED for Africa. Dancing celebrates the grand opening of a school in Twewaa, Ghana, funded by YHRI project, UNITED for Africa.

Keenly aware of widespread human rights violations in West Africa, a team of impassioned volunteers in Milan, Italy, has raised more than just a rallying cry on behalf of those most vulnerable to violations of their human rights.

In the West African nation of Ghana, only half the adults can read and write, 55 percent of children never progress beyond elementary school, and 34 percent of those are forced into child labor. In rural areas, where schools may be miles away and children have neither transport nor shoes, youth are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuse. Isolated and without education, ignorant of their rights, they are at high risk of being trafficked as sex slaves or subjected to child labor.

To address this threat to human rights, the Italian group, under the banner “UNITED for Africa” and in partnership with Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), has spearheaded a major national campaign. Its aim is to guarantee the fundamental right to education for children otherwise denied schooling in poverty-stricken areas of Africa.

Enlisting the support of many celebrities, including Mattafix, the European hip-hop fusion sensation, the group has held a series of gala benefit concerts attended by some 5,000 supporters, including stars of television and stage and Italian soccer legend Cafu. The project has received the endorsement of the city council president and mayor of Milan, whose Alliance for Africa program is now affiliated with UNITED for Africa.

The drive has been an unqualified success, with funding raised for two schools in Ghana that have been built and opened. Untoma Oxford International School was constructed in the capital of Accra, in a district with no existing schools. The second school, in the remote village of Twewaa, now enrolls 200 to 300 students from surrounding villages. In addition to the buildings, donations also equipped the schools with chairs, blackboards, paper, pencils and books.

A key aspect of UNITED for Africa’s success are the audiovisual materials provided by Youth for Human Rights International. Through its global educational initiative reaching hundreds of millions of people, Youth for Human Rights urges broad promotion and adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the primary means to protect human rights for all.

To date, and through UNITED for Africa’s work, more than 6 million Italians have learned about their thirty human rights from Youth for Human Rights public service announcements airing on major national television and radio networks.

A member of a local Italian Commission for Equality and Opportunities said, “The Youth for Human Rights International campaign is for everybody. It’s designed for all Mankind.”

UNITED for Africa is one of many groups advancing universal human rights by utilizing YHRI’s educational film The Story of Human Rights, the UNITED music video, and two companion books—What Are Human Rights? and The Story of Human Rights. In Italy and across some 188 nations, such grass-roots projects capture the attention of government, education and human rights organizations, leading to cooperative actions and raising the global profile of human rights issues and solutions.

With its annual concerts and gala events drawing the support of leaders and celebrities, UNITED for Africa is raising funds to build three more schools in Ghana. The next school is scheduled to open in spring, 2011.