Anika John: Post UPR Talk

It has been over a month since we arrived back in New Zealand. For most individuals coming back from a trip like this, reflecting on what we have learnt and what we saw, would feel like the end of our journey, but in reality as cheesy as it sounds this is just the beginning.

In a nutshell, this experience for me was eye opening starting with the inaugural pre-session in wellington last November. We were exposed to so many issues that we couldn’t have known existed in our country, to say my life was sheltered would be the biggest understatement of the year. Issues regarding the rights of; refugees, those seeking asylum, young offenders, women, women in rural areas, and children, were all brought to our attention during the pre-session.

Then to follow this process to Geneva, Switzerland and watch our Minister of Justice - Andrew Little speak openly about the issues we face due to domestic violence, gender discrimination, and our justice system, was shocking but also extremely powerful. These problems that are faced by so many kiwis across our country isn’t a problem our government alone can fix, it’s a societal problem and the only way to move forward and make change is to openly talk about these problems. If our ministers, and our government are willing to talk about these issues, on an international stage - why are we not talking about them within our communities, universities, schools and homes?

It became clear to me after witnessing the Universal Periodic Review of New Zealand, that to get the most out of this process more citizens and residents need to know their human rights,we need to know more about the UPR and it should be given more attention. We need to talk about these issues and start more conversations. As a country, as a society we need to make a change and only then will our government be able to put policies and laws into place that support what we want to achieve.

I believe that it is my responsibility, the responsibility of my team to start this conversation, to get this information out to our peers and let them bring their opinions and their experiences to the table.