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Hear from a HART Prize Winner

1 March 2023

St John Smith, who won the Intermediate Essay category in the 2021-22 HART Prize, recently joined the team at HART for a week of work experience. While he was with us, we asked him to tell us about his choice of essay subject matter, and why engaging with these issues is so important:

I first came across the HART competition on my school’s list of academic competitions. My course interest at university has political aspects to it and so I thought it would be a great idea to educate myself on current (perhaps overlooked) human rights crises.

The guidelines for the competition were as followed: research and write an essay on a topic of your choice, as long as it is related to one of the eight countries where HART works. And so, I researched each country HART operates in and finally decided to write an essay regarding the political affairs within Burma.

I chose Burma due to my interest in the ongoing enmity between the Rohingya and the Burmese authorities, particularly the role of social media in the escalation of the inhumane events that took place. The essay was titled ‘How social media has led to the mass destruction and segregation between the Rohingya and citizens in Burma.

For context, the Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State face systematic abuses that amount to crimes against humanity, namely: apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty. They are confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, healthcare, education, and livelihoods.

The purpose of the essay was to ultimately raise awareness about the pernicious effects of social media, leading to destruction and segregation in places such as Burma. There is no reason for factors such as social media and differences in culture to lead to mass genocides of innocent people. By raising awareness about the damaging influences social media has on millions of people, we can hopefully transition into using social media in a more conserved and positive approach.

– St John Smith, HART Prize 2021-22 Intermediate Essay Winner

Read his winning entry here.

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