(This story is sponsored by Amnesty International.)
Sometimes, a letter can change someone’s life. This is the idea behind the world’s largest human rights event: Write for Rights, Amnesty International's global letter-writing campaign.
Every year around Human Rights Day on December 10th, Amnesty International supports people and communities at risk of human rights abuses worldwide who urgently seek justice and solidarity.
The organization chooses 10 cases where Canadawide and global action can make a huge difference. Supporters around the world write letters, send emails, and sign petitions in support of those whose rights are under attack.
Write for Rights began with a group of friends and one big idea. A group of activists in Warsaw, Poland, held a 24-hour letter-writing marathon for Human Rights Day, writing letters on behalf of people whose rights had been violated.
From 2,326 letters in 2001 to 4.5 million letters, tweets, and petition signatures in 2020, Write for Rights participants have united to transform the lives of over 100 people from all over the globe, helping free them from torture, harassment, or unjust imprisonment.
Write for Rights has proven that words have power. Birtukan Mideksa, a former Ethiopian judge who was freed from prison after people around the world petitioned for her release through the campaign, illustrated the importance of using one’s voice.
“Thank you for your hard work and your campaigns to secure my release from prison...Your letters, phone calls, and petitions were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none.”
How to take action
There are many ways to take action on Human Rights Day, and anyone can participate in Write for Rights. You can register as an individual, join an event in your community, or organize your own letter-writing event. You can also get involved through email, petitions, and social media.
Every year, hundreds of letter-writing events take place across Canada, both in-person and online. You can find local events, including one in Vancouver’s False Creek South by visiting the Write for Rights events page. A virtual writing marathon will take place on December 10th.
Here are five people who need your support this year:
- Bernardo Caal, a Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous community leader who is in prison for defending the rights of his people in Guatemala.
- Zhang Zhan, a journalist imprisoned for reporting on the truth about COVID-19 in China.
- Imoleayo Michael, a computer programmer who faces years in prison for protesting to #EndSARS in Nigeria.
- Wendy Galarza, a childcare worker in Mexico who was shot while peacefully protesting violence against women.
- Janna Jihad, a 15-year-old journalist who faces threats for exposing systemic discrimination against Palestinians.
You can choose to act on as many or as few of the cases as you like, and there are plenty of resources available to inspire your own campaign for change. Case sheets, letter-writing tips, videos, and success stories can all be found on the Write for Rights website. Whether it’s via letter, email, petition, or twitter, every word makes a difference.