Jessica Dewhurst is a human rights defender and Edmund Rice International (ERI) United Nations (UN) Youth Ambassador from South Africa.
In high school she volunteered with several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with children affected by HIV Aids, refugee children, and children who have been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
In 2012 she completed the ERI Human Rights training at the UN in Geneva, and travelled the world as an ERI UN Youth Ambassador, promoting human rights and working alongside countless youth and organisations to bring about positive change.
On return to South Africa she Co-founded and now directs the Edmund Rice Justice Desk, an award-winning human rights organisation which operates in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. ERJD offers support, expertise and educational materials to groups across the globe, as well as serves as an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) advisor to the UN.
The ERJD focuses on educating, advocating and equipping youth, vulnerable groups, civil society, and governments across South Central Africa in human rights, justice and advocacy. It works primarily in township areas and vulnerable communities, empowering and equipping communities to lead their own change. It has trained and equipped thousands of men, women and children to be advocates for change and hope in their communities.
Jessica holds an undergraduate, honours and master’s degree in Social Development, specialising in Children’s Rights and human trafficking.
As well as being a 2016 Queen's Young Leader, she has been named:
- a top 10 South African Inspirer
- a 30 under-30 top achieving South African
- a top 30 young African
- and an under-25 Who’s Who of SA.
Jessica has received awards from South African president Jacob Zuma, Prince Edward, Countess Sophie, Lead SA, and most recently the Queens Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace.