How Young People Can Drive Change One Word At A Time

Amnesty International India
26 December 2019 4:14 pm

By Aswati Warrier, Programmes Officer, Human Rights Education, Amnesty India

It was student marches that sparked the Velvet Revolution and youth protests that fuelled the anti-apartheid movement. Closer to home, we see campus protests leading the unwavering resistance to the bigoted Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Across our shared history, young people have been powerful drivers of change and have led the fight against injustice. India’s freedom struggle is a prime example of how youth activists brought strength and nurtured the freedom movement.

Yet, as a young individual in 2019 India, you often find yourself wondering: “What can I, alone, do to bring change? Does my contribution or voice really matter in the grander scheme of things?”

It does. Take this month – we have all been swept away by the police brutality at Jamia Milia Islamia University –  where students braved the police aggression, took up various means to raise their voice and built pressure on the state.

The power of young people to question the status-quo is unimaginable. Over the last two weeks, universities have erupted with protests, in solidarity and peaceful civil disobedience. But what can a young student or college graduate do when there is no large scale mobilization or active movement to support and yet, your heart roars against injustice?

The answer is simple: you write.

Writing As a Form of Peaceful Activism

We have all heard the old adage: the pen is mightier than sword. That is the partly the idea behind our global campaign ‘Write for Rights’.  Through this campaign, we urge people to write letters to support human rights defenders and activists. Those who participate in this campaign write letters to authorities to shed light on human rights violations, and it works!

This is why we believe that sometimes a letter can change someone’s life.

Every year, Amnesty International chooses 10 cases from across the world based on a theme. This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up for Human rights’.

Recently, students of St. Josephs College of Commerce (SJCC), Bengaluru did their bit for human rights when they collaborated with Amnesty India for Write for Rights campaign on 11 December 2019.

The Write For Rights stall at St Joseph’s

The event was spearheaded by Amnesty club members. Throughout the day, students who passed by the Write for Rights stall, were introduced to the 10 youth activists and their stories of struggle. The students then wrote letters and took part in signature campaigns for any of the activists whose story touched them.

The organisers, the Amnesty club members, were from across India, and so based on their varied experiences, each of the case stories resonated differently with each one of them.

Aaron, Amnesty Club coordinator, SJCC who actively participated in organising the event said: “Today helped me learn the importance of fighting for what you believe in and never giving up”. Meshi, one of the Amnesty Club members said she was extremely disturbed and touched by the case of Yasaman Aryani from Iran. Meshi was encouraged by Yasaman’s story to talk to as many students as possible. The students acknowledged how human rights, which are the most fundamental rights of a human being, have become a luxury difficult to afford for many people across the globe.

Although the college has had frequent programmes and discussions on social issues in the past, the students were inspired by the idea that a small action taken by them can make such a big difference. In a short time, the discussion spread from the basketball court, where the stall was set up, to the cafeteria, classrooms and library. Soon we had students approaching the stall on their own, asking: “Can we sign letters for all of these cases?”

Mohammed Arshad, a volunteer at Amnesty India who was also part of organizing the event said he was emboldened by the response of the students. He stresses on the importance of everyone’s involvement and said: “Students who are pursuing courses that may not be related to social issues need such opportunities to engage with human rights”.

Inspired?

The Write for Rights campaign is still going on, click here to join the campaign. It only takes a minute to add your voice!