Raising Awareness of Human Rights


In cooperation with the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, Institut Montana is committed to the topic of human rights. The focal point of this collaboration was the ‘Speak Truth to Power’ photo exhibition which portrays human rights activists from around the world.

The photo exhibition served as a starting point for an interdisciplinary examination of the topic of human rights. It was a very important topic given current worlds events and the founding values of our school. Institut Montana was founded in 1926 in the belief that education can help make the world a better place.

31 March 2022
The exhibition consists of 35 black and white portraits of international activists taken by the artist Eddie Adams and was on display at the school from 21 Feb – 1 April. The portraits include well-known personalities such as the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzi and less prominent activists such as Oscar Arias Sanchez, a Costa Rican activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The photos were displayed in the dining hall and along the corridors in the main Grosses Haus building, a fitting historical backdrop to the stories and histories of these indi-viduals who want to be seen and heard. 

RFK photos in stairs

Education projects 

Ms Welti, Head of the Bilingual Secondary School worked with the teaching staff to ensure a full pro-gramme of educational projects. Ms Stephanie Eger, Director of RFK, attended a teacher develop-ment day in February to talk to all teachers about the exhibition, topic of human rights and RFK and Yann Langenhoven from the RFK provided additional support to students in March.
 
Alumni involvement 

We were also honoured by the involvement of Yahya Bajwa, a former student of Institut Montana, Class of 1980. He returned to the Zugerberg for a workshop with students. While at school on the Zugerberg, Yayha dreamt of opening a boarding school in his home country of Pakistan. Now as an adult, local politician and lecturer from Aargau, he has achieved his dream and founded the non-profit association "Living Education", which supports the education of girls in his home country.

As part of his work with our students, he talked about the dangers of being an advocate for human rights, explaining that is not always safe to speak up for your beliefs depending on the topic and countries involved. Living Education campaigns for Women’s Rights, especially the education of girls from the poorest communities of Pakistan. It is a challenging task and sometimes projects have to be shut down due to political or religious pressure.

Yahya connected with the project immediately as he saw a short film of the exhibition and recog-nised the photo of Asma Jahangir, who is the Co-founder of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). He has been a member for almost 20 years and had the chance to interview Asma several times – She won the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ in 2014, also known as the "Alterative Nobel-Price for HR". he was very keen to have the chance to use his knowledge, passion and experience to work with our current students.
 
A successful finissage

On 24 March, Institute Montana welcomed Dr Christoph A. Karlo, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, Switzerland, Stephanie Eger, Director of RFK and Adiba Qasim, a Yazidi survivor from Iraq, who is currently studying international law at the at the University of Geneva and works at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. They formed part of a special address to students from across the school.

RFK President

The programme started with a speech by director Alexander Biner. He talked about the importance of human rights and the connection of the school to this subject. He was followed by Dr. Christoph Karlo, who explained to the students why it is so important to think about human rights and their meaning both at a young age and as a citizen of a prosperous country like Switzerland.

The next presentation came directly from the students, as they told everyone how they had re-searched human rights either by looking at a specific activist or right. Two students presented a world map of respect for the rights of homosexuals across the globe. Other students talked about how while working on the subject, they could not believe how badly (and in what atrocious ways) human rights are still violated in our world today.
 
The final speech came from activist Adiba Qasim, who told a story about how as a girl she was una-ble to go to school, but she always wanted to go so badly. She told us how she would follow the oth-er children to school and look through the classroom windows to try and learn something. She dreamt of going to school every September and buying new shoes. In the end, she had to flee her country in 2014, aged 19 due to violence and escaped with her family to Turkey. She eventually came to Switzerland and found asylum. She was finally able to fulfil her dream of learning and is now studying at the University of Geneva. Adiba’s story was very touching, so the teachers decided to bring in a group of BE students and let them hear the story. It was a very moving experience and ended with lots of hugs. 
 
Final words

A public viewing of the photo exhibition and an apero for parents were arranged, giving everyone an opportunity to view the stunning portraits, both as works of art and as starting points for debate. We hope the discussion continues and the topic of human rights remains as relevant as ever. 

RFK Adiba and students

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