|1st in Category Winner|
It seems fated that Jessica Dewhurst (25) would live a life centred on educating others about their human rights.
At 14, whilst volunteering at a camp, she came into contact with a young girl who had been horrendously abused by her mother. “I couldn’t understand how my life was so protected.”
In an effort to redress social inequalities, Dewhurst spent much of high school volunteering her time at multiple non-governmental organisations. She worked with children affected by HIV/Aids, refugee children, and children who were victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
It made her long to have a greater impact.
The turning point came at 18, when she was attacked by a man. During the ensuing court case, she learnt things about her attacker that heightened her interest in human rights.
“He had been completely let down by the country. His father was abusive, his mother was an alcoholic, and he had no documentation, so he couldn’t access any opportunities. We almost perfectly made sure that he led that life.”
Dewhurst went on to earn a Master’s degree in Social Development, specialising in children’s rights and human trafficking.
She also completed the Edmund Rice International training programme at the United Nations in Geneva, and travelled the world as one of the Group’s UN Youth Ambassadors. The group promotes human rights, and works alongside countless youth and other organisations to bring about positive change.
In 2013, while still a student, Dewhurst co-founded the Edmund Rice Justice Desk in Cape Town. The organisation operates in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It focuses on educating, advocating for, and equipping youth, vulnerable groups, civil society and governments across South-Central Africa in human rights, justice and advocacy. It works primarily in township areas and vulnerable communities, empowering and equipping communities to lead their own change.
As the director of the organisation, it’s Dewhurst’s task to develop a yearly formation programme that will educate and skill ERNSA members, as well as the general public around Social Justice and Advocacy issues. For her work, Dewhurst received recognition from President Jacob Zuma, and Prince Edward, and was honoured with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2016.
She recently completed an international leadership course at Cambridge University so that she can help reach more people in more meaningful ways.
“I want to continue to expand, so that we can reach as many people as possible in every province.”
|If you have privilege, you have an immediate responsibility to use it to change the lives of others.|