Voices for Human Rights: Renee Gujral, National Youth Organizer

I’ve seen a lot of injustice around me all my life. My passion for travel and having lived in many places, cultural distinctions only amplified my rigour towards social justice. From Student Council and repeated requests for period products in the women’s washroom to the UN to several youth-led non-profits looking to make a change within our democracy, something’s always drawn me to human rights and defending freedoms. That’s why I think I jumped at the chance to be a National Organizer for Amnesty International the minute an organizer from Dogwood told me about the volunteer position. 

Currently, as a National Organizer and a part of various campaigns, one of the more fulfilling projects I’ve worked on has been the Climate Workshop for the Annual General Meeting of AI Canada. Although the Climate Justice Movement, attached to Amnesty and otherwise, has found major footing and urgency in recent years, upon reflection through my work, I’ve found that this care and love for nature and the climate festered within me long before that. It might be all the trees I climbed as a youngin or nature class we had in primary school; it’s hard to pinpoint but, those small beginnings definitely played a part in the passion I carry for the climate movement. Seeing my small contributions come to life through the presentation, watching the audience interact and absorb the information I put forward was invigorating. The first step to participating in any movement is knowing its message and importance; I think the workshop team really accomplished that, talking about climate change and its inseparable link with racism, poverty and human rights. 

Amnesty International is a global organization promoting human rights. AI’s work and campaigns are saving lives. It may be selfish, but this position is very personally fulfilling. I’ve watched for years the work Amnesty has done for the security of reproductive rights, the acquittal of wrongful convictions, eradication of discriminatory practices against BIPOC, women, queer people and children – the list could genuinely go on – but to have seen the significant and life-altering changes Amnesty continues to make throughout this pandemic is remarkable. Now to be a part of furthering real change, all while supporting an organization that’s so focused on youth leadership and listening to the voices of the future, is greatly gratifying. 

Something I look forward to exploring in my journey as an activist is lowering the voting age. My work with Vote16BC has shown me that lowering the voting age does not just offer an increase in the voting population; it sets off a domino effect. Lowering the voting age allows more youth to be a part of politics, leading to more young candidates running for office, younger MLAs, youth as a part of the city council and school boards. Youth are leading fundamental movements for gun control, education rights and taking critical steps towards climate action – last year, more than 100,000 people marched in a youth-led climate strike just in Vancouver, let alone the millions worldwide. Adults and youth alike are joining forces to advocate for our present and the future. Even with the events of past years — RCMP violence against Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders, societal impacts of COVID-19, rampant forest fires in Australia, the global Black Lives Matter movement, and a U.S. election drenched in dishonesty — more and more youth are realizing governments can no longer amuse our ideas just for political show. We need representation, being no different from any other constituent. We are ready to watch the change take place and be a part of making it.

Amnesty International has really made it possible for me to dream. The platform as a whole allows individuals to find their place in different areas of social justice, discovering countless unique ways to be involved, all while working with consistently talented and inspiring individuals.