It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Ian Werrett, author of How We Are Failing the Right to Education.
About Ian Werrett:
After completing his undergraduate degree in politics Ian moved to Southeast Asia to work with those fleeing genocide in Burma. He spent a number of years aiding asylum seeking children and children who had survived human trafficking. During these years Ian and his colleague would conduct outreach, after midnight, in a neighbourhood infamous for organised crime and poverty seeking to find and help children who were often alone on the streets.
Upon returning to the UK he aimed to raise awareness about the plight faced by stateless children and children fleeing conflict. After providing a few guest lectures at universities he embarked upon his postgraduate degree in international human rights law. He has managed to publish a handful of articles in academic journals concerning human rights but wanted to get more of a narrative and personal piece of non-fiction released in order to raise further awareness and share his experiences.
About How We Are Failing the Right to Education:
Insightful, humorous and filled with surprising information, How We Are Failing the Right to Education reveals how governments are failing to respect the human rights they have promised to uphold. With lively anecdotes and astonishing flashbacks from the author’s time as an aid worker, this book opens our eyes to the world around us, offering hopeful change.
Author Interview with Ian Werrett:
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- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
In order to protect the identity of those I have worked with, yes. This book covers human rights law and political issues but also features true stories from my personal experience. No names or locations are mentioned in my book. I also contacted those who shared these moments with me and made sure they were happy with my recollection of events. When I was an aid worker one of the biggest security threats to our children was people wanting to share photos and stories on social media. If you visit a centre for high risk children please do not post pictures on your social media or state where you have been. These children can be highly vulnerable to human traffickers, your photos and comments can be clues leading the traffickers to find the children. I only have a handful of pictures on my social media of me with the children, all of these pictures were requested to be uploaded by the kids themselves, after they grew up.
I have previously published one blog post, on an NGOs site, as ‘anonymous’. This was due to the highly sensitive nature of the blog which detailed corruption and abuse.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
The people you are writing about will read your work, be respectful at all times. From personal experience I can assure people that if you write an article about refugees living on the border of country X, one or more of those people will read what you have written. For example, you could write: ‘these poor and homeless people may be dead within days due to their tragic and lonely situation.’ If this is true then these people may feel a small sense of hope and relief that the world is not ignoring them. If this is not accurate and you have embellished then these people could easily become offended and see you and your work as a personal quest for success. Information gets everywhere and people often read things relevant to themselves. We once had a journalist state that all of the children we worked with were homeless. Some of the children lived at home with their parents and came to our centre for some food and a safe space whilst their parents worked. As you can imagine, these parents were greatly upset by the article.
- What does literary success look like to you?
If just one reader gains a better insight into human rights law, how important the right to education is and how it could be used to build a better world then I’ll consider this book a success.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For journal articles it would normally be a few weeks to a month of academic research. For this book it has been between one to two years of research into human rights law, politics and sociology. I normally search for and read UN documents, NGO reports and academic journals. I tend to research as I write. I’ll research what I think is needed for one chapter and then as I’m writing more questions will pop up which require further research. After that chapter is completed, I’ll start research for the next chapter.
- Describe your writing space.
The living room in my little cottage. I sit where I can see out of the front window at the street and also out the back window to the garden. Green spaces help to keep your mind a little bit clearer and remind you to take a break.
- Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
I have not written a fiction book or even a short story but would love to read a book where a disadvantaged child becomes the hero. A child that overcomes adversity to make a difference would be amazing. Not when they grow up and become an adult but as a child. Why not have a book for adults where the child is the hero? Their innocence and imagination often allow them to see peaceful solutions to problems that adults may miss or not even contemplate.
- What was the highlight of writing this book?
When I finally had a chance to research how we can overcome the problem of so many children not attending school. This included looking into solutions regarding discrimantaion, poverty and conflict, three of the key contributors to denying children the right to education. I also allowed myself to imagine a world where every child could go to school safely with a teacher who was not overworked but instead respected by their government.
As a teacher I also enjoyed the chapter concerning the rights that teachers should enjoy. We are supposed to have a wage that is comparable with other professions requiring degree level education (hint: we don’t). We are also supposed to enjoy numerous other protections that we don’t. Some teachers around the world have it incredibly tough. I was inspired whilst researching the teachers in Zimbabwe who risk financial ruin and the teachers in Pakistan who educate young girls despite threats from the Taliban. Almost all teachers contribute to their society, but in extreme cases teachers can be real heroes.
- Your hero?
As a teenager I looked up to Martin Luther King and chose to research him for a history project. When researching the Civil Rights Movement I learned about the great work of other individuals and how many people risked arrest and violence for their just beliefs. By idolising one man we risk forgetting the struggles of countless people who sacrificed for the greater good.
The same could be seen in Burma today. Countless people risk their lives for democracy and human rights each day. Aung San Suu Kyi may be the figurehead but she alone would achieve almost nothing. I was also heartbroken to see her defending the genocide of the Rohingya to the ICJ.
Perhaps we need to celebrate more everyday heroes alongside remembering the few true greats like Dr. King.
To learn more about Ian Werrett, here’s where you can connect with him:
- Twitter: @iantwerrett