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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Send a card, save a life?

My second guest post over at the F Word.

For some reason, last year was the first time I ever took part in the Amnesty International Greeting Cards Campaign. It was on the long, long list of things I intend to do, but never got round to.

But then last year, I did it. I made greetings cards from some of my photos, wrote encouraging messages inside, and posted them to the people I had chosen. It was easy, creative, and actually felt like a good reason to be in a Post Office queue.

I would have loved to send cards to everyone in their campaign, but I knew the postage would be prohibitive, so I had to decide on who I would send to. I went for sending cards to all the women in the campaign, and sending one to Binyan Mohammed, who was a British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay.

So when my booklet for this year's Greetings Card campaign arrived in the post yesterday, I instantly read through it and started ticking the pages of the ones I wanted to send cards to.

Again, I will focus my attention on the women. Amnesty says:
Our Greetings Card Campaign brings people across the world in touch with each other in a simple way - by sending a card with a friendly greeting or message of solidarity to someone who is in danger or unjustly imprisoned.

Below are 32 stories about people around the world who have suffered human rights abuses and would benefit from a card with a friendly greeting or message of support.

Between 1 November 2009 and 31 January 2010 we'd like you to write to as many of them as you like and remember that just one personalised message will mean the world to a prisoner in a cell or a family waiting for news of a loved one.

They give advice for each person about whether you should avoid mentioning anything religious, or political, and a suggested message. The website also gives translations of their suggested messages, if you want to write to the recipient in their own language.

Amnesty has checked with each potential recipient that it will be safe for them to receive cards, and even if you only send one (there really is no requirement to send all 32!), it can make a massive difference to somebody out there whose situation is otherwise dire.

Some examples of people you can send cards to this year are Justine Masika Bihamba in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has found herself and her family under attack because of her work for a women's rights organisation. In September 2007, soldiers forced their way into Justine's home while she was out, and tied up her six children, aged between five and 24, at gunpoint. One of the soldiers kicked her eldest daughter in the face, breaking her tooth. He then attempted to rape Justine's 21-year-old daughter.

Having failed to do so, he sexually assaulted her with a knife. Although Justine and her children were able to identify the soldiers, they have not been arrested or brought to trial. Workers at Justine's organisation have regularly been threatened and attacked because of their peaceful work against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another woman is Sonia Pierre in the Dominican Republic. She is a human rights defender and has been threatened and harassed as a result of her work to stop discrimination against the Haitian community in the Dominican Republic. Sonia is executive director of the Movement for Dominico- Haitian Women (MUDHA), which works to combat the anti-Haitian prejudice and racism that is an everyday reality for many migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Then there is a group of 9 women's human rights defenders in Nicaragua. They are Ana María Pizarro, Juanita Jiménez, Luisa Molina Arguello, Marta María Blandón, Martha Munguía, Mayra Sirias, Violeta Delgado, Yamileth Mejía and Lorna Norori. They belong to various organisations that work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse; promote sexual health and promote the rights of women, children and young people.

They are facing legal proceedings for their involvement in the case of a nine-year-old girl who was raped and made pregnant in 2003 and obtained a legal abortion in Nicaragua. In October 2007 a non-governmental organisation backed by the Roman Catholic Church lodged a complaint against the nine, accusing them of concealment of rape, crimes against the administration of justice and other misdemeanours. We fear that the complaint is because of the women's human rights work and their activism to ensure the right of women and girls to safe and effective sexual and reproductive health services.

They list so many people whose lives you could help by a simple action. You can put as much work or money into it as you want to, really! Send one card to one person, or get your whole community to write and send cards to everyone!

As you can tell, I believe strongly in this campaign, and will be posting my own cards off in the next few weeks. I'm also going to be photocopying some of the booklet and sending pages out with the zine orders I get until the campaign ends. If you have the spoons, give it a go.

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