Jemma Neville

Jemma Neville - EMA Graduate 2005/2006
Jemma Neville - E.MA Graduate 2005/2006

Jemma Neville (E.MA graduate 2005/2006)
Outreach Coordinator, Scottish Human Rights Commission

I first studied law because I’m an activist at heart and like lots of young idealists, I wanted to make a difference  An early career in international criminal law opened my eyes to the potential discord between judicial process and the narratives of memory and recognition demanded by victims and witnesses. This prompted further study into participatory outreach techniques and culturally-sensitive responses to both ‘reach’ and inspire those excluded from decision-making processes. I searched for a postgraduate course that offered both a broad grounding in the foundations of international human rights law and an introduction to fieldwork. 

The EMA degree is unique for offering an intense,  multi-disciplinary and hands-on critique of human rights from internationally renowned guest lecturers and practitioners. Dialogue, debate and dreams flow out of the classroom and into the dappled sunshine of the San Nicolo courtyard over caffe lungo; forging lasting friendships and professional links. Being marooned on the Lido is the journey of a lifetime. 

Helping organise the student film festival and joining counterparts from the Centre for Human Rights in Africa during their fieldwork trip to Sierra Leone were particular highlights for me. The commitment from tutors and diversity of subjcts covered is like no other postgraduate degree that I am aware of. It inspires confidence in each of us to take a less travelled path. 

In learning to ‘think global, act local’, I have since been lucky enough to work in capacity-building roles, journalism assignments for NGOs and deploying creative solutions to harder to reach engagement. As Outreach Coordinator at the national human rights institution for Scotland I work with individuals and civil society organisations to empower them to apply a human rights based approach to problem-solving in everyday settings and to engage with the international human rights system to affect change in law and policy across disability, climate justice and the rights of older people. 

Returning to teach on the cluster stream in 2011/ 2012 brought new reflections on the ways in which the course prepares students to be the next generation of human rights defenders. It made me further appreciate the value of what I learnt about human rights, about democratisation, and about myself, during the EMA course. I’m still an activist.