Emilie Secker

Working for the charity Safe Child Africa

Following the completion of my undergraduate degree (Joint Honours History-Sociology) at the University of Leeds, I began an LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Lancaster in 2003. I found the subject absolutely fascinating, and after gaining a Distinction I was encouraged by my dissertation supervisor to continue with a PhD. I was fortunate to gain funding for this from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and completed it in 2009. The focus of my study was ‘Participation in Human Rights Law: A comparison of theory and practice’.

During the final stages of my PhD I considered various career paths. The Law School kindly gave me opportunities to become involved in university teaching and to work as a research assistant, so that I could gain experience of working in academia. I also began volunteering for a small child rights charity based in Lancaster – Safe Child Africa. Due to my knowledge of the UN system gained through my LLM and PhD, the charity asked me to prepare a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the issue of child witchcraft accusations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. After the report was submitted, I attended the Committee’s review of Nigeria in Geneva, and then visited Nigeria to disseminate its findings.  I was then offered a permanent salaried position at the charity in June 2010.

Working for a small charity means no day is the same! I manage our Prevention and Protection programme, which focuses on supporting children who have experienced violence, abuse and neglect, with a particular focus on street children and children who are accused of witchcraft, and advocating for their rights at the community, national and international levels. My responsibilities include project management: developing projects collaboratively with our Nigerian partner organisations, overseeing their implementation on the ground, and designing and applying monitoring and evaluation procedures to measure the impact of our projects – including regular monitoring visits to Nigeria.

In addition, I am responsible for our child rights advocacy work. This focuses on engaging with local communities, in order to improve their knowledge of children’s rights, encourage positive behaviour change and reduce abuse of children. It also targets the national and international decision-makers who have the power to implement the widespread, systemic changes needed to ensure the effective implementation of laws and policies which protect children. Finally, I develop techniques to improve child participation in all areas of our work, including working with Nigerian children to make sure their voices are heard by their own government and at the UN level.

I feel my time at Lancaster, in particular the support and encouragement from Law School staff, is what first set me on this path. I am very happy to have found a career which allows me to put my academic knowledge to practical use in upholding human rights.