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A group of people are walking down a street in a protest.A group of people are walking down a street in a protest.

Students Rights Watch

In the Students’ Rights Watch project, we work to safeguard student activists and their activism through research, documentation, and influencing decision-makers globally.

With authoritarianism on the rise, students around the world are experiencing reduced space for activism, protesting for their rights, and engaging in social justice issues. Both within and outside of the university space, student activists are met with repression, threats, physical violence, arbitrary detention and worse.

Still, there is little knowledge and attention to student activism as a phenomenon and how student activists are repressed.

We know that many attacks go underreported and that repression also occurs in overt and subtle ways that are difficult to document. To ensure strengthened protection of student activists we need to better understand the challenges they face.

Through the Students Rights Watch project, SAIH contributes with research and knowledge production about different forms of student activism and the repression activists face. This knowledge helps us inform decision-makers and strengthen protection mechanisms.

A woman holding a megaphone in front of a crowd.A woman holding a megaphone in front of a crowd.

What we have achieved

Increased knowledge about the repression of student activism
The first "Activism under Attack" report was published in 2023. Based on case studies from nine countries and engaging with actors and activists in more than 50 countries, the report highlighted four different forms of oppression student activists’ encounter. A new report will be launched in 2024 and will highlight student activists' own experiences and views on activism and the challenges they face.

Attacks on student activism is on the agenda
As a result of our research and advocacy, more actors are focusing on the specific challenges student activists face. Scholars at Risk, the Global Student Forum, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education now have attacks on student activism higher on their agenda.

The way forward

There is a need for further research and knowledge production on the forms and extent of repression student activists face. Given that activism and repression can look very different depending on the context, we need to ensure research efforts are more inclusive, diverse, and participatory.

SAIH will also continue to work for better protection mechanisms for student activists. We aim to establish Students at Risk-programmes in other countries and through our collaboration with UNESCO, focus on how higher education institutions can engage in the protection of human rights defenders.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us!

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