A SCHOOLGIRL has made it through to the final three for a national award for highlighting human rights issues.

Ele Saltmarsh, who lives in Wootton Fitzpaine and attends the Woodroffe School, is in the running for the Young Human Rights Reporter of the year.

Ele, 17, said she was ‘delighted’ to be in with a chance of winning the award, which is run by Amnesty International UK.

She chose to write about forced evictions after meeting the Sengwer tribe of Kenya at an indigenous people’s conference in 2000 with mum Jyoti.

After beating off entries from 7,000 others, Ele will now head to Amnesty International’s central London headquarters for the prestigious awards ceremony on Wednesday 30th April where the winner will be announced.

Ele said: “We’d lost track of their doings over the years, so seeing their name in an update from Kenya was really shocking.

“It’s one of the more discrete issues which are rarely mentioned or reported on, but that does not make them any less important.”

She added: “It's made me fantastically happy to become a finalist. One of my favourite feelings is knowing that there are like-minded people fighting for the same cause as you, and the hope and companionship that can come from that support is phenomenal.”

Jyoti added that she was ‘proud’ of her daughter’s achievement. Jyoti said: “Both my daughter and I work together to fight for the rights of those who live on the land through an international peasant rights organisation called La Via CampesinaI’m proud that she is growing up on the land and cares for it deeply along with our global family of people who belong to the land.

“This summer we are planning to go to Kenya and hope to meet up with the Sengwer so we can learn from them about how they can work with the authorities to protect the forest and help them fight for their ancestral homeland.”

Director of arts at Woodroffe School, Dot Wood, said: “Ele is a true example of independent learning – she has entered this award without telling anyone and has written a piece full of passion but also intelligently researched.

“When she came to tell me she had been shortlisted she said: ‘I wrote the article not particularly to win the award but because I felt so angry at the situation in Kenya with the Sengwer tribe that I wanted everyone to know about it.’”

Ele’s work, along with that of nine others in the category will now go before a panel of judges and the final three will be unveiled later this week.

The overall winner will be announced on April 30.