Call 13: Support children to become human rights defenders
By Bruce Adamson and Ruby
Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson
meets Ruby, aged 9, to hear about her campaign challenging
gender stereotypes – and her plans to change the world
Bruce: Ruby, it is great to meet you. Could you tell me a bit about your campaign?
Ruby: I was looking though a clothes catalogue and noticed that the girls all had pink dresses, all pretty and sparkly. That’s not helpful if you are trying to play. Dresses don’t work for climbing trees or adventures because they get ripped. They also said the boys’ clothes were all for adventures.
Bruce: What did you do after you saw this catalogue?
Ruby: I wrote to the company and said I am a girl, I like to play and go on adventures every day and I can’t do that with some of your
clothes. They said they didn’t get my letter so I phoned them up and read the whole letter out.
Bruce: Can you share a bit of your letter?
Ruby: [reading from letter] I am writing to inform you that I am a bit upset because some of the captions in the girls section are suggesting that girls cannot do some stuff and that only boys can. I am upset because I am a real girl who can climb trees, loves adventures and can stand up for myself. Also it’s making girls feel like that they have to be pretty. I am sure my friends would not appreciate this either. Also, I think that if I change the world, I would not be sitting around looking pretty and pretending I don’t have to do anything. Not all girls have to be pretty. From Ruby. P.S Here are some of the pictures and examples which annoyed me out of the catalogue.
Bruce: That is a really powerful way of doing things. One of the things I really loved about the way you wrote the letter is that you didn’t just say I am angry about this, you were really clear about what you thought they were doing wrong and why and then you offered
examples as well. Did you get a reply?
Ruby: They sent me a voucher and said they would send [the letter]
to all their departments.
Bruce: There’s lots of things that you talked about in your letter that are your human rights. You told them that you shouldn’t be treated differently, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a boy or you’re a girl. You said that you play every day and play and rest is also an important right. Children also have the right to an education that helps you grow and that includes nature and being able to climb trees, that’s part of learning too. You are challenging the company
and you’re doing that based on human rights.
Ruby: And it’s not just about clothes. My campaign is called Let’s Adventure.
Bruce: Now, that’s a name that I think that people would get excited about. You’ve given me a badge to wear, what’s on it?
Ruby: [points to badge] The tree is because I like climbing trees, the face is for being happy, the shorts and T-shirt are because some girls feel like they have to wear dresses and skirts all the time and the cloud stands for the adventure, whenever you want.
Bruce: Whatever the weather, I like that too. It’s about adventuring, it’s about being yourself.
Ruby: I’m going to write to other companies and me and my friend are going to design adventure clothes for girls. Boys and girls don’t get treated the same and not just with clothes. Once my tennis teacher said that ‘girls don’t know what a punch is’ like only boys fight. Some teachers shout at us too.
Bruce: You are standing up and defending human rights. It’s not just about knowing about your rights, it’s about taking action and you have already done that so you are a human rights defender, which is amazing. Writing this letter and putting together your campaign – and I know you are just at the beginning - you are a leader and you are helping change the world. Challenging people is quite hard sometimes because it might feel a bit scary so one of the important things about human rights defending is that adults in charge must listen and protect you. What do you think would happen if you asked a teacher not to shout at you?
Ruby: Maybe they would get really cross.
Bruce: You shouldn’t get into trouble for standing up for your rights. When you write a letter or say to a teacher ‘actually you shouldn’t speak to us like that’ then the people in charge must listen to you. I’m trying to work on making sure that adults know that when children defend their rights, you have to be protected and you can’t get into trouble.
Ruby: Do we have the right not to be shouted at?
Bruce: You have the right not to be shouted at and you shouldn’t be treated differently based on who you are. How did you know what you wanted to do in your campaign?
Ruby: I made this mind map about what I wanted to do and my mum is a campaigner too so I know about campaigns.
Bruce: You’re lucky that your mum is a campaigner and she can inspire you. How could we make it easier for other children to help change the world like you?
Ruby: It could be in school or I think we should have campaign cafés and you could just pop in and have something to drink or eat and there could be loads of campaigners there and they could tell you about how to change things.
Bruce: A campaign café sounds brilliant. The government is on your mind map. What could they do?
Ruby: I could write to them and tell them about campaigning. They might tell schools and they will tell parents and the parents might tell their children and it would go on and on and people would then know about how to make changes.
Bruce: Young human rights defenders like you need the skills and support to stand up for rights and people in power need to know that when you do speak up, that they have to respect and listen to you.
Ruby: I want to tell everybody that we can all adventure.
Bruce: That’s really important about being a human rights defender too. It’s not just about one person, it’s about lots of people. Being treated differently is equally the same problem for older girls and for boys too. What has started in your head, has become action and
defending rights leads to changing the world. Looking around outside, there is space for you to adventure here.
Ruby: Would you like to climb that tree?
Bruce: Sounds good, let’s climb some trees.
National violence against women charity, Zero Tolerance, responded to this call, highlighting the ways that gender stereotypes perpetuate gender inequality. Read the article here.
Follow #25Calls to see which organisations have endorsed this call.