Ilford human rights champion heading to Bosnian college for two-year mission

Zaahidur Rahman has been nominated for the Recorder Young Citizen Award

Zaahidur Rahman has been nominated for the Recorder Young Citizen Award - Credit: Archant

A socially conscious teenager at an Ilford school is preparing to go to a college in Bosnia to learn about conflict resolution.

Zaahidur Rahman, 15, a student at Cranbrook School in Mansfield Road, has already won an award from human rights organisation Amnesty International for a sensitively written report on female genital mutilation (FGM).

And the school’s head of English, Archana Nair, has now nominated Zaahidur for the Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club Young Citizen Award, sponsored by the Exchange Ilford shopping centre.

Having taken his GCSEs, Zaahidur is preparing to go to the United World College in August for two years. The school was set up after the Bosnian War in the 1990s to help rebuild the society.

Zaahidur said: “I think it can broaden my perspective. It’s an international community and we can wisen each other up to what’s happening in our countries.”


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FGM is the practice of intentionally altering or injuring female genital organs for non-medical reasons such as the removal of the clitoris. About 140 million girls and women worldwide live with the consequences of FGM, according to the World Health Organisation.

He was inspired to enter Amnesty International’s competition by Roger Taylor, a former assistant headteacher at the school who has now retired, and Zaahidur said it “took ages to sink in” when he was named the Upper Secondary Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year in April.

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Now he intends to bring other subjects to the attention of the mass media, such as the practice of gavage or leblouh in Mauritania in west Africa.

Girls in parts of the country are force-fed because obesity is culturally seen as desirable. Zaahidur said: “I think it’s better to spread out and report on new things that go on.”

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