Bangladeshi Canadian Youth Awarded at United Nations
Toronto’s Abeir Liton, high school student and first-generation Canadian, awarded for his human rights advocacy
When most other men his age are hard put to name even three of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Abeir Liton, 17, not only has them down cold, he’s determined to make these rights a reality.
Liton was one of five human rights advocates awarded the “Human Rights Hero Award” at the 13th annual International Human Rights Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Although Liton was born and raised in Toronto, his parents emigrated from Bangladesh where many of the rights that Canadians take for granted do not exist. More than 43 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day; an estimated 66 percent of the girls in the country are married before they turn 18; UNICEF reports 13 percent of the country’s children are laborers, where they are subject to arduous conditions and often denied an education.
Liton was introduced to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2012 when his 7th grade teacher used the Youth for Human Rights International curriculum with his class. It immediately struck a chord. He decided to ensure youth in Ontario understand these rights so they can demand them for themselves and others, and he began sharing the information with his friends.
Ontario is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada and many of Liton’s friends, who were born in war-torn countries such as Iran and Iraq, fled their homelands because of human rights abuse. When he introduced these friends to the Youth for Human Rights program “it really touched their hearts,” he says. “They were really motivated by the cause.”
With the help of his friends, Liton has established Youth for Human Rights clubs in three local schools. He has personally distributed thousands of Youth for Human Rights booklets and volunteered hundreds of hours educating Canadian youth on their fundamental human rights, especially young members of Ontario’s indigenous community and refugees.
Liton represented Canada at the 13th annual International Human Rights Summit, a three-day program attended by youth delegates from 41 countries. Representatives of 17 UN Permanent Missions participated in the event, including Ambassador Michael Grant, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, who met with Liton and his four fellow Canadian youth delegates and congratulated them on their accomplishments.
“I felt very honored to receive the United for Human Rights Hero Award,” says Liton. “Youth for Human Rights International has provided me the encouragement and motivation to continue to be an activist for human rights education.”
“Abeir is a perfect example of an active young leader who takes responsibility for his community and inspires others to do the same,” says United for Human Rights Director Ruslan Khusainov.
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