Each year, the world’s biggest human rights event just gets bigger. Write for Rights 2018 was no exception, with people writing millions of messages that transformed the lives of women activists worldwide.
They came in their dozens, hundreds, even thousands. They were students, parents, teachers, friends – ordinary people who took a moment to tweet, type, draw or write a message of support for someone they’d never met. They did this an astonishing 5,911,113 times as part of Amnesty’s 2018 Write for Rights – an annual letter-writing marathon on or around International Human Rights Day (December 10th) that has become the world’s biggest human rights event.
What’s astonishing isn’t that people wrote all those messages – although that, too, is incredible. No, what’s astonishing is the difference those messages made to the lives of the brave women activists we supported in 2018. Here are just some examples of how your words changed lives.
© Amnesty International
Gulzar achieved a huge win for disability rights
Gulzar Duishenova had been championing disability rights in her country for years. In March 2019, her persistence paid off when Kyrgyzstan finally signed up to the Disability Rights Convention. Supporters wrote nearly a quarter of a million messages backing her. “I am grateful for all the support and solidarity from so many of Amnesty International’s activists who care about our rights despite being from a different country,” said Gulzar.
© Fernando Figueiredo Silva
Marielle’s family got several steps closer to justice
Marielle Franco was a charismatic local politician who always stood up for Brazil’s poorest: black women, LGBTI people, young people. In March 2018, she was gunned down in her car. Experts said the bullets had belonged to the Brazilian Federal Police. One year later, two ex-police officers were arrested for her killing. It was a small step towards justice, no doubt aided by the more than half a million messages demanding “Who killed Marielle Franco?”
“It helps me to get up in the morning and see some meaning, knowing that there is this big global network of affection,” said Monica Benicio (pictured), Marielle’s partner, when asked what it meant to be part of Write for Rights. “All these demonstrations of love and affection are helping us to mobilise, to demand justice, to pressure for investigation and above all to fight so that there will be no more Marielles.”
Atena got the urgent medical care she needed
Jailed for handing out leaflets criticizing the death penalty, Atena Daemi has endured physical attacks while in prison. She needed specialist medical care urgently, and thanks to the more than 700,000 actions taken by people worldwide, Iran finally gave her the treatment she needed. “I am wholeheartedly grateful to all people around the world who have showered me with compassion and kindness and spared no effort in supporting me,” she said.
© Amnesty International
Nonhle’s determination grew stronger
Nonhle Mbuthuma and her community have struggled hard to stop a mining company from extracting titanium from her people’s ancestral land in South Africa. But her campaign has put her danger. Nonhle has survived harassment, threats, even an assassination attempt. “Some of my colleagues have been killed, and I know I could be too. But I am not scared,” she told us when we spoke to her last year.
Through Write for Rights, people took more than half a million actions for Nonhle. “I want to thank Amnesty globally, the support they gave us is amazing and it makes a lot of difference,” Nonhle recently told us. “The thousands of letters we have received shows that this struggle is not just about us, that we are not alone. It shows that the earth is important, and not only in Africa, because we have received letters from Germany, Sweden, Norway, and France. They want peace at the end of the day because without land there is no peace.”
© Fabiola Ferrero/ VII Mentor Program / Panos Pictures for Amnesty
It’s not just a tweet
So, what can a tweet, postcard or signature really achieve? As it turns out, LOADS. With their words, supporters unleashed a wave of warmth and solidarity across the globe for the women we featured last year. Those words helped comfort people in distress. They also helped amplify these women’s calls for justice, in some cases persuading leaders to step up and do the right thing by them.
As we close out 2019, Write for Rights kicks off again. This year, we’re standing by young people around the world who are facing danger because the adults in charge are failing to protect them. These young people need you to stand by them. If you have any doubts, read what Geraldine Chacón (pictured) has to say. She’s a young activist from Venezuela who was at constant risk of being thrown back in jail for helping young people know their rights.
“I’ve campaigned for Write for Rights cases before,” said Geraldine. “I never imagined I’d be on the other side of the campaign. I have no words to thank all that Amnesty has done for me.” People wrote thousands of letters in support of her in 2018, and she had this to say about what they meant to her: “A letter has the power to turn a bad day into a happy day.”
So, get writing. Join Write for Rights 2019.