14th Annual Oxford Human Rights Festival | Increasing global empathy


One of the major challenges of those wishing to raise awareness about issues in distant lands is that of humanizing them and making them relevant to local audiences.

However, in a world of increasingly interconnected politics and economies the idea of problems being foreign and only affecting people in far-away countries is becoming less and less relevant.

In 2015, more than a million people including refugees and migrants crossed the European borders, some escaping war and others running away from dire economic conditions. In their quest for survival, both of these groups have had to leave their families and the life they once knew to venture into unknown territories where at many instances they are met with rejection and persecution.

The Oxford Human Rights Festival wants to convey the idea that humanity shares such problems as we become more interconnected. With exhibitions, performance and films from all over the world. The Master’s students in Development and Emergency Practice at Oxford Brookes University are trying to create an artistic and intellectual platform for the Oxford community to interact and partake in some of these discussions.

The festival is free and runs from February 10 to 13. We aim to take viewers on a journey through the perils faced by people fleeing from adversity and environmental decay. We will also focus on problems in England, such as affordable housing and poverty, while delving into the challenges women face worldwide.

The central piece of the festival will be the exhibition “Women in Adversity: Contemporary and Traditional Crafts as a Source of Hope and Income”. This is a set of artisanal pieces made by, among others, Palestinian, South African, Indian and Sri Lankan women, as well as here in the UK, who have been victims of war and other forms of adversity. Their life stories are told in these colourful items. The exhibition will be open from January 25 until February 19.

Since 2003, our festival has highlighted a diverse range of topics surrounding human rights, including the effects of war and climate change. It has been fourteen years since it first began, and this year we hope to captivate the audience with fascinating speakers such as Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai. Mr. Yousafzai will introduce the film “He Named Me Malala”, a screening shown in conjunction with the university’s Documentary Club.

We will also show documentaries, short films, animations and dramatic movies, as well as exciting activities such as a performance by Ice & Fire/Actors for Human Rights and a Dabke dancing workshop with Palestinian writer and director Ahmed Masoud.

Joining this festival means taking part on a journey to understand the themes that are shaping the world and are of relevance to any country or profession. Humanity has now more things in common than ever before. Refugees, migration and climate change are just some of the issues that concern all of us equally.

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