The hope and future of the Amnesty movement
"Spend some time every day defending your human rights while you have them. Enjoy them to the full. Don't wait until your rights are taken away to start standing up for them!"
That was Jenni Williams of Women Of Zimbabwe Arise's challenge to Amnesty's Student Conference 2012 and wow did the 250 student activists spend three days rising to it.
Friday began with Times photographer Paul Conroy telling of how he had pushed and pushed until he got to the heart of the story in Syria, where his colleague Marie Colvin tragically lost her life and he only just survived to tell the tale.
On Saturday WOZA's Jenni and Magodonga Mahlangu raised the roof and won our hearts, proving exactly why the power of their love is conquering the love of power in Zimbabwe. Then it was all about standing in solidarity with the Afghan Young Women For Change. We heard from the brave human rights defenders who are shouting loudly that women's rights must be part of any so-called peace and refusing to be silenced in spite of the risks. We took the campaign to the streets of London (above) collecting over 2,200 signatures.
We heard from the radidly expanding new Amnesty section in India which recently got 50,000 people mobilised in a day. The shockingly discriminatory attitudes that lead to forced evictions of communities here in the UK were exposed in the 'Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier' session and then we ended with an Arms Trade Treaty update - its been delayed but not defeated and we're getting ready to finish the job in March.
We watched the film Call Me Kuchu, we clapped the Raise-Off Fundraising Award winners till our hands hurt, we elected a new Student Action Network Committee. We were blown away as we heard from all the groups about the amazing campaigning that's been happening on campuses across the UK.
We learnt more about human rights, we campaigned on the street for them, we met like-minded others and we stood, laughed, cried and danced together. Yes we enjoyed our freedom to the full.
Amnesty's Campaigns Director Tim Hancock opened conference saying that standing up for human rights is not just an act of compassion it is an act of optimism.
These Amnesty student activists brought a blast of optimism to the Human Rights Action Centre when they arrived. We saw that same belief burning in every single person who took to the stage and recognised it in each other when we met for the first time. After three incredible, inspiring days the students go back to their campuses with that optimism burning even brighter - knowing that it is through that brave, relentless belief that together we will make real the world we want to see. These student activists are the hope and future of the Amnesty movement.
I'll leave it to the winning conference tweet to sum it up:
@helenaparker: Had an amazing day #aistudentconf 2012 ; ) met inspiring people, marched for womens rights and watched an inspiring film and awesome food!
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