Amnesty International is widely known as one of the most prominent non-governmental human-rights based organizations in the world today, battling many of the most fundamental questions of human rights and freedoms all around the world. Its campaigns have made momentous strides in inspiring within us an appreciation for global interconnectedness as well as the capacity for social change. Being a member of Amnesty International has been a very empowering and enriching experience for me, and a great decision to make as a student at the University of Ottawa.
In Canada’s capital city, there have been so many opportunities for Amnesty members to get involved. Alongside other Amnesty branches, human-rights based organizations, and youth groups in the city, we have worked to have our voices heard in solidarity with the plight of individuals whose human rights have been violated. One example is when we participated in demonstrations held in support of Raif Badawi, a blogger unjustly sentenced to the gross punishment of 1000 lashes by Saudi Arabian authorities for allegedly insulting Islam. Another instance in which we played a public role in the community occurred when we were asked to help give a speech at the Human Rights Memorial to help commemorate the memories of all the victims of genocide throughout the ages. The larger Ottawa branch has been a great benefit to the UOttawa Amnesty group, mentoring our progress and providing support and interactive opportunities in our influential city. Amnesty UOttawa is a relatively young student club, but has naturally attracted some of the most motivated and socially inspired students in the school with a common interest in social justice. Originally based out of the Law Faculty, our group has recently expanded to include equally-strong executive membership in the Social Sciences Faculty as well. This fusion of intellectual backgrounds has resulted in a promising level of creative collaboration and leadership.
In the past year, UOttawa’s growing Amnesty club has worked tirelessly to increase its presence on campus. Firstly, we have prioritized the promotion of the many campaigns of Amnesty International, in order to familiarize our student body with the organization. Specifically, we have worked to shed light on ways in which the human rights of vulnerable parties in Canada such as aboriginal communities may be threatened. In particular, we worked to shed light on the alarming and disproportionate number of missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada and the ways in which students could mobilize and take direct action to pressure their government leaders to address the national crisis. We have worked alongside other law faculty clubs such as le Club des Droits de l’Enfant to draw attention and help create meaningful dialogue surrounding the rights of children in Canada. In the fall, we held a “write for rights” event in which students wrote letters of support to individuals and groups throughout the world whose human rights were either being withheld or violated. While we have promoted these social justice goals, we have also focussed our efforts on a pet project. We have reached out and formed alliances with some of the key groups we feel helped represent our spirit and values over the past few semesters, including Lawyers without Borders and Engineers without Borders. In doing this, a valuable dialogue and friendship was formed between activists in the faculties of Law, Social Sciences, and Engineering. Last year we used this new relationship to create a spirited fundraising and awareness Music Night event at the end of the second semester. The collaborative experience was a massive success and it helped to define our Amnesty UOttawa club as an interactive and creative member in the UOttawa activist community. We hope that this is a tradition that we will further in all of our future club endeavours. We want to officially invite those who feel that this is a group they would like to join us. Please find our group on Facebook at “Amnesty International/Amnistie Internationale UOttawa” or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved this year. All are welcome.
Personally, being an executive member of Amnesty International has been a very enjoyable experience for me, and I have met many inspiring individuals who will be my friends for the rest of my life. The volunteer opportunity will be a universally recognized asset for any future endeavour, and I will leave this university knowing I made a difference.