This year, our student organization Human Rights Through Education (HRTE) presented a speaker series entitled “Human Rights in Conflict.” Following a successful fall film series of the same name, HRTE organized this speaker series to explore how the interpretation of human rights is shaped by conflict situations, and vice versa. HRTE was honored to receive a BLI small grant to support the final event in this series.
On March 14th, Loung Ung, a renowned Cambodian-American activist, lecturer, and author, joined HRTE and the University of Michigan community as the keynote speaker of “Human Rights in Conflict”. Ung, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide and former child soldier, passionately recounted her story to the audience. Following Ung’s talk, audience members posed very thoughtful and fruitful questions on Ung’s experience and her work as an activist, making for a very interesting and stimulating discussion.
Loung Ung offered reflections on her work and her journey to becoming an activist, stressing that this path is very unique to each advocate. She encouraged members of the audience to find ways to become an activist within a profession that they love and are passionate about. She stressed that you can be an activist in any discipline; everyone makes change in their own way.
Behind the scenes, the planning and implementation of this event provided a great opportunity for HRTE members to develop leadership skills. HRTE’s flat structure allowed for members, new and old, to be actively involved with the planning process through working with departments on campus, communicating with speakers, and grant-writing, among many other opportunities. HRTE prides itself as a group that effectively upholds learning from peers and informal mentorship in a way that forms a strong, passionate community of members who leave the University of Michigan as formidable social justice advocates.