It is a global letter-writing campaign offering the public the opportunity to write on human rights issues and bring meaningful change to people and groups who need support to uphold their human rights. Last year, more than five million messages were sent to world leaders demanding human rights progress. This year, activists are aiming to replicate that success, focussing on 10 critical cases in 10 countries where peoples’ rights are being violated and action is urgently needed.
“The main purpose of our event is to ‘write for rights,’” says organizer Kelly Mould, “but we also believe in celebrating successes and honouring the rights that we strive for. The event includes a candle lighting ceremony and we are elated to be welcoming back a choir from Harwin Elementary.“
This year, all 10 cases focus on women human rights defenders, to celebrate the role of women who stand up against injustice and lead the charge for change. At the same time, we will also show how discrimination, abuse, intimidation and violence uniquely and disproportionately affect women, and in particular, women who speak out in society.
Two of these women are Nonhle Mbutuhuma, an Indigenous woman in South Africa who defends land rights, and Vitalina Koval in the Ukraine, who advocates for the rights of women and LGBTI people. Civil society’s capacity to peacefully advocate for human rights is shrinking the world over, and this is especially true for women human rights defenders.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Canadian John Peters Humphrey played a central role in drafting the new Declaration in 1948, which laid out a comprehensive blueprint for a world of justice and rights. The Declaration equally recognizes the importance of civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression and protection against torture, and economic, social and cultural rights such as access to education and healthcare.
The legacy of John Humphrey lives on in Amnesty International, as the UDHR became the framework for Amnesty International’s human rights work. Write for Rights is one Amnesty event held every year in over 150 countries and is now the world’s largest writing event.
“When hundreds of thousands of people around the world get together and send a clear message demonstrating they will stand by a person or group whose human rights are being violated, the impact is huge. It gives people the strength to keep going.” says Sandra Meehan. “It also sends a message to those who are violating human rights that they cannot keep their crimes secret because the world is watching. Every letter, email and petition signature chips away at the problem.”