THE passion – and intellectual rigour – of a 17-year-old West Dorset schoolgirl saw her win the Amnesty International Human Rights Reporter of the Year.
Woodroffe School pupil Ele Saltmarsh of Five Penny Farm, Wootton Fitzpaine, wrote about the forced eviction of a Kenyan tribe but it wasn’t the lure of the prize that inspired her to enter.
She wanted to publicise the plight of the Sengwer tribe and thought the best way to tell their story was through the prize.
She said: “I didn’t expect to win but I thought the competition was really a way of getting the news out there quickly. It was about highlighting what was going on rather than winning the prize.”
But once she got to the ceremony in London she wanted to win.
“Once I got to the ceremony I did want to win just because the Sengwer people had given me a message to give to Amnesty.
“They just wanted me to pass on their thanks to Amnesty for giving me the support and spreading the news and they wanted to say that it had given them hope.”
Ele was so shell-shocked to have won she barely took in the reasons but thinks it was because she suggested a solution instead of just highlighting the issue.
She said: “It was a very short piece but I managed to get in the information but also wrote about what could be done to solve it instead of just saying, this is the issue and it is bad.
“The evictions are being done in the name of conservation to reduce emissions – which I am for because I am a conservationist – but they are evicting these people who are actually the ideal stewards of the forest so I was saying go ahead relocate the settlers who are causing emissions but indigenous tribes should be able to live in harmony with the forest and manage it as they have done for generations.”
Ele, who is doing AS levels in biology, chemistry, maths, further maths and environmental science, and mum Jyoti are going to visit the Kenyan tribe this summer.
They hope to be able to help them with their fight to stay on the land.