Welcome to Volume 10, Issue 1, of the University of Leeds Human Rights Journal.
I want to open this letter by expressing my gratitude to everyone who has made this volume not only possible but for making the process of putting it together joy-filled and enriching. I hope this shines through every page. I write this letter at the end of my four years as a University of Leeds student. It’s an honour to have been part of this Journal’s history, as a peer reviewer in my second year and now as editor-in-chief.
This volume represents a special one. It is the culmination of ten years of student-led scholarship on human rights in the first and only undergraduate Journal of its kind. This volume coincides with the new challenges brought on by a post-lockdown society and how we respond to challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the surface in higher education and in the wider world.
I am incredibly proud of the time and effort that has gone into planning, curating, and editing this volume by the editorial team. It has been a co-led and cooperative process. Each member of the team has had unique responsibilities. Isabel, our managing editor responsible for the finances, has been integral to ensuring the continued quality of funding of the Journal. She successfully helped us secure £1250 of funding from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (AHC) and the Faculty of Social Sciences. We were awarded the inaugural Faculty of AHC student equality and inclusion project award for our Love Wins fundraiser. Aminah has done a fantastic job of maintaining communication with the schools, societies, and organisations such as Amnesty International and the Plus Programme.
Fanni, our managing editor, oversaw the peer reviewers and ensured their engagement in all parts of the Journal They were integral to choosing the best submissions, editing the articles, and choosing our theme. We improved the quality of the peer-reviewing process, with additional training and workshops for the peer reviewers.
Our online presence has been strong across social media platforms thanks to our social media manager Joshua and our online editor Marria charged with managing the blog and website. Joshua has drastically increased engagement on LinkedIn and Instagram and has done a great job ensuring a constant flow of content. The ‘Editor’s’ Pick’ feature has been one of my favourites and consists of one member of the editorial board picking a current news story relevant to human rights each week. These have ranged from topics such as Gun violence in the USA, LGBTQ+ rights and the End SARS protests in Nigeria.
The blog is a vital attribute to the Journal provides an accessible way for undergraduates to share pieces on current issues throughout the year. Marria has worked hard to liaise with blog writers and edit and publish the blogs. A new feature of the Journal this year is the blog post of the year, chosen by Marria. Kerry Pearson’s blog post on climate change and the right to a healthy planet was this year’s blog post of the year. Samuel Smith also wrote an interesting piece on health inequality and how Senegal tackled the Covid-19 pandemic. Both posts link nicely with our theme sanctuary through their discussions on what just and fair societies should and could like. I would encourage you all to have a read of these blogs and all the others on our website.
I would also like to thank the steering committee for helping us ensure the academic rigorousness of the Journal and for playing a vital role in picking the winning essay for the HRJ Essay Prize. It is composed of academic members Dr Ipek Demir and Dr Ilias Trispoitis and the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Officer Tess Hornsby Smith, who has been crucial to the ongoing management of the Journal.
It has been such a delight to be able to host a variety of online and in-person events this year. Our first event on Black History Month was in collaboration with the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies. We invited Leeds Alumni Phoebe Sheppard to discuss her research on Eurocentric beauty standards and Jonathan Kennedy, who spoke about Black History in the context of secondary education. I also joined the panel to discuss my Laidlaw scholarship research project on West African resistance fighters. We also held an in-person film screening of the 2018 film Afghan Cycles, which follows the struggle for women’s rights through sport. We collaborated with the Skills@library team to deliver an academic writing and research skills webinar for the Editorial team, peer reviewers and writers. Our boldest event of the year was the Love Wins music fundraiser to celebrate LGBTQ+ history month and raise money for the charity AKT, which tackles homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. Joshua, Fanni and Isabel have written about these events in more detail on pages 116-119.
We received a plethora of creative and academic submissions, which all capture the theme of sanctuary and human rights in poignant and unique ways. They have all been an absolute pleasure to read. I want to congratulate Flora Hamilton for winning the HRJ prize for best original research. Her essay interrogates the anthropocentric and colonial roots of the Human Rights framework, through a case study on Ecuador’s adoption of the Rights of Nature in law. Another stand-out essay is Lisa Ray’s piece on the impact of Brexit on the Roma community in Glasgow. Aliya Kanat’s heartfelt and timely poem, the spring in three sunsets, depicts how the Ukrainian people have been stripped of their sanctuary, right to peace and security amidst the Russian invasion. The creative submissions include photography, graphic design, and oil on canvas. One of my favourites is Dan Woodward’s piece, Through the Cracks, which is also our cover art. It speaks to the climate crisis and the impacts of technology and humans on our natural sanctuary.
Curiosity, collaboration, and growth have guided my work as editor-in-chief. I am excited for you to read all the engaging pieces and marvel at the artwork. I am grateful to everyone involved in this project and to my family and friends for their continued support and encouragement. I hope this volume is thought-provoking and challenges you to think critically about the concept of human rights. We must reflect upon which humans are excluded from the human rights framework, and go beyond the human by considering non-humans, nature and how their prosperity is intimately linked to the sanctuary of humans.