UH Hilo Student Participates in International Human Rights Summit

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo senior from Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) represented her country as a youth delegate at the 14th Annual International Human Rights Summit, held recently at United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City.

Josefina Pereira (right) seated with fellow delegates at the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber Room.

Josefina Pereira, who is majoring in administration of justice and political science, was one of 52 delegates selected for the summit, which teaches youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspires them to become advocates for tolerance and peace.

“It was an honor to represent Timor- Leste and UH Hilo as a delegate, and to learn more about important human rights issues from true human rights champions and activists from around the world,” Pereira said.

Pereira is a recipient of a United States Timor-Leste Scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administered by the East-West Center. Her attendance at the summit was sponsored through a merit-based scholarship from Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) and with financial assistance from the UH Hilo Office of International Student Services program.

“We were thrilled to have Josefina represent her country and UH Hilo at this important event,” said Jim Mellon, director of International Student Services at UH Hilo. “It is a testament to her dedication to human rights and to UH Hilo’s engagement with the global community.”

The summit brought together officials and advocates who work for equality and justice through human rights education, including ambassadors and other representatives of permanent missions to the UN. During the session, keynote speakers, youth delegates and ambassadors and observers from more than 45 countries were invited to share their thoughts and feelings on human rights issues in their home countries. Pereira addressed children’s rights in her homeland, with a focus on mitigating and eventually ending child abuse.

“This is an issue of great concern to me,” Pereira said. “I appreciate the opportunity the summit provided me to share my thoughts on this topic with an international audience.”

Participants also attended panel presentations on key human rights issues, including human trafficking, that featured leaders of the international effort to prevent human trafficking and a survivor who shared her own personal story. They later heard from noted human rights activists, including author and social entrepreneur Bryant McGill, Reach the World Director of Partnerships Christopher Ahearn, and radio and TV host Kerri Kassem. Pereira said she was deeply inspired by her experience and hopes to return.

“I feel I gained a lot from my experience, but have more to learn. So I would like to return next year as a youth ambassador,” Pereira said. “2018 will also be a very special year as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 70th anniversary and YHRI marks its 15th anniversary. ”