Anne Frank Ambassador Inspires!
This term, Woodside High was asked to participate in a special conference organised by the Home Office called “Building a Stronger Britain Together”. The conference was to bring together the many different strands of work being done to support more resilient communities, addressing extremism in all its forms and supporting those who are vulnerable. Janiz Djafer, Year 11, was asked as one of only two Anne Frank Ambassadors nationwide to represent the organisation and speak to an audience of over 300 people about her work. She did an phenomenal job, delivering an inspiring and informative speech that was exceptionally well received by the delegates. A daunting task for anyone, Janiz demonstrated maturity and courage beyond her years and really impressed everyone in the audience. You can read her amazing speech below!
Hello, my name is Janiz and I’m a Year 11 student from Woodside High School in Tottenham, North London. I am honoured to be asked to speak today as I think the issues that are being discussed here are very important and have a great deal of relevance to my – and my friends’ lives.
Here you will see the Anne Frank exhibition hosted at Woodside. Students in Year 9 (13 and 14 years old) were trained to become guides for the exhibition and teach younger students about Anne Frank and the Holocaust.
I was encouraged by one of my teachers to train to be an Anne Frank Ambassador. There is absolutely no way I would have done it had it not been for that encouragement.
In Year 7 and 8 I was quiet and extremely shy. I still am shy really, and I never thought to put myself forward for things. I am very grateful for the encouragement I received, that I was pushed out of my comfort zone, because in doing so, I found an ability and interest that I didn’t know I had. I found my voice.
Throughout the training process we learnt the material in order to teach and talk about the exhibition knowledgeably. Critically, however, we learnt how to talk about a difficult subject in a sensitive manner. We learnt how we could be truthful and accurate but also explain things in a way that was sensitive and respectful.
It meant a great deal to me. I felt happy and proud that I was able to teach students about this important topic. I am sure you will be able to see in the faces of my peers that they too felt proud. And a real sense of accomplishment.
And why is this work important? Because prejudice and discrimination is all too common.
I see it, my friends see it, my family and beyond see it. Racism, sexism, islamophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, ablism, agism, body shaming, mental health discrimination – the list goes on and on.
It is so important to talk about these things and to, hopefully, teach people to be nicer to one another.
It’s not just important to young people. It’s important to all people.
At Woodside, Anne Frank Ambassadors held an evening event where we showed parents, carers, staff and friends of the school around the exhibition. It was really positive for us to have those conversations with parents, siblings and friends.
In fact, a parent who we had shown around the Anne Frank exhibition went to speak to our Head at the end of the evening. She said she was so happy to know that not only were students studying this at school, but that she had the opportunity to learn about it also. She said that whilst she had heard the word "holocaust“ before, she had not known what it was. She cried as she spoke. This is the impact that the work of the Anne Frank Trust can have.
We continued those conversations at school and at home. We told our friends and families about what we were learning and doing at school. And they were proud of us. They too attended the exhibition, saw photographs of us teaching, and told their friends also.
We discussed and debated with a far wider circle of people than the younger students we were tasked to teach, and in doing so, our own skills in having those sensitive and challenging discussions were developed further. And I hope that means that my generation is going to grow up to become adults who are equipped with the skills and understanding to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
I am sure you won’t be surprised to hear that to my friends and me, when we hear the word “extremism” we think “Islamic extremism”. We think of everything we have seen on TV and read. We think of how some media outlets portray women who wear a headscarf somehow as terrorists, and as a Muslim myself, that hits home.
But there are a lot more types of extremism in the world than Islamic extremism, and what being an Anne Frank Ambassador has taught me is to think more broadly, think in terms of all kinds of hate, and how my friends and I might challenge it.
And it’s not just the responsibility of young people. It’s down to all of us.
To those of you who may be wondering how you can help get more young people involved in countering extremism, I would ask you to consider what role models we see. What leadership we see. What compassion in our daily lives we see. Is our world flooded with narratives of hate? Do we see people in positions of great power and influence advocating prejudice and discrimination? Do we see laws and decisions being enacted that will have great impact upon our lives and future that we have no voice in?
It’s not an easy topic. It’s not fun, but it needs to be talked about. And I would say to anyone who suggests that it isn’t a relevant topic for them, or that it doesn’t happen in their schools, their organisation, their family, that if they don’t talk about it, how could they possibly know. Because it doesn’t start with acid attacks, vandalism, protests and explosions. It starts with the seeds of hate being planted and allowed to grow unchecked, unchallenged, unaddressed.
Young people sometimes need for the opportunity to be involved presented to them, to be encouraged to participate, and I am so grateful that I had that opportunity given to me. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be able to be here, expressing my views. I hope that, even in a very small way, I have helped to contribute something positive in the world, and that is what I hope for the future, for all of us.