Protecting the Next Generation From Domestic Violence

Changing attitudes in Portugal on this urgent human rights issue

Human rights education initiative

Claudia Fernandes is taking a stand against domestic violence in Porto, Portugal.

More than 450 women have been killed in Portugal through domestic violence over the past 12 years. In 2016, the country registered 22,773 cases of domestic violence — the equivalent of 14 incidents per day. And a 2014 report by the European Institute for Gender Equality found 24 percent of women in Portugal had experienced violence.

After three years of escalating abuse, in 2015 the government issued tough legislation to protect battered women. But without addressing underlying cultural values, these crimes are bound to continue.

In 2016, Fernandes began targeting this issue with the Youth for Human Rights educational initiative in private schools. Then the city gave her the green light to educate teachers and have them implement the program so all Porto children will know their human rights.

She has found that introducing students to the 30 rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and making sure they understand them can change their fundamental attitudes about how to treat others.

Fernandes first became involved in human rights education several years ago while living in the United States when her 6-year-old daughter was subjected to verbal abuse at school. It was particularly problematic because the source of the bullying was her teacher.

She began a “Young Leaders of Human Rights Incubator” project to empower youth. The problem she faced was how to get through to children about their rights and the rights of others.

By browsing the internet she came across the website of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), a nonprofit organization that offers a program to educate people on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was the answer. The YHRI materials were designed to bring human rights to life for people of all ages. With their public service announcements, one for each of the 30 articles of the document, even the youngest children can understand these rights.

In 2016 when Fernandes moved her family back to Portugal, she continued her commitment to human rights education, seeing this as a way to protect victims of domestic violence. She has built a team of volunteers to educate youth on this urgent subject.

The Church of Scientology and Scientologists support United for Human Rights, and its program for young people, Youth for Human Rights, the world’s largest nongovernmental human rights education campaign, reaching out in 195 countries in 27 languages and embraced by 2,300 activists, officials, groups and organizations. Their support of the initiative is inspired by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard’s conviction that “It is vital that all thinking men urge upon their governments sweeping reforms in the field of human rights.”

For more information, visit the Scientology website.


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