Kiwi wants world rid of nukes
A former Timaru girl wants to do her bit to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Emily Watson, 20, spent last week attending the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico.
Miss Watson was selected by the Red Cross after winning an essay competition.
Entrants had to write a 1000-word essay on why the conference is important, what they hoped it would achieve and how New Zealand could contribute to this.
Miss Watson said New Zealand's nuclear-free stance meant it could really make a difference on the world stage but there was still much it could do to persuade other countries.
Representatives from 130 governments participate in the Mexican conference, including the New Zealand Government.
"The big countries, such as Russia and the United States, signed the non-proliferation treaty, but have still not done much to rid the world of nuclear weapons," she said.
"It is still important for us to take notice of it. It's not something that other countries can just take care of ... if there is a nuclear winter in India or Pakistan, this could have major effects on New Zealand's trade, environment and agriculture."
Miss Watson said last week in Mexico had been overwhelming.
"I've learnt heaps about the ins and outs of nuclear negotiations and the challenges of communicating with people from around the world at such conferences," she said.
"I've had a crash course in international humanitarian law, nuclear diplomacy and the organisational structure of the Red Cross. It's all been very exciting."
Miss Watson, a former Craighead Diocesan student, is studying law, international relations and French at Victoria University.
She said her interest in the issue was sparked by a presentation she saw recently by two Hiroshima survivors.
"As a young New Zealander, I want to feel proud looking back one day and knowing that my generation was able to put an end to the nuclear crisis for good."
She was also a volunteer for the Wellington branch of New Zealand Red Cross as well as Amnesty International, the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre soup kitchen and Human FM radio station.
Miss Watson said she was inspired by not only political figures such as Gandhi but also her mother, who is a teacher, and a rest home caregiver.
"They [caregivers] are unsung heroes, they do a lot of work behind the scenes. I spent time working at rest homes in Timaru; I was so impressed with how caregivers can deal with so much and remain so loving and considerate," she said.
Miss Watson wants to continue her efforts raising awareness about the issue of nuclear weapons and encourages people "just to get involved".
Despite the daunting task, she believed a nuclear weapon-free future was possible.
"I am convinced it is achievable to ban nuclear weapons. The world has already proved it is capable of banning chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions and landmine."
Miss Watson on her blog at politicspersonified.blogspot.co.nz
SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD