Crafting for Human Rights

19 May

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These cakes are decorated with what I believe to be one of  the most iconic logos in the world. I’m sure many of you know which organisation the logo represents! For those of you who need your memory jogging, or who haven’t seen this logo before, it represents Amnesty International. These cakes were on sale in the foyer when I was lucky enough to attend the AGM and Conference of Amnesty International UK last month.

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Until attending this event, I had never known the true origin of the logo. It depicts a Chinese proverb, which reads, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. At the opening ceremony of the Conference a speaker from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) spoke and lit a candle on stage, which was surrounded by barbed wire, which proceeded to burn for the remainder of the event. It was an incredibly powerful image and an emotionally charged moment.

I have been a subscriber to Amnesty for years, giving a few pounds each month by direct debit. I don’t feel like I have contributed much to the activism, but I have made an effort to read the magazine when it pops through the door, and have occasionally signed the odd petition. However, a few months back, an invitation arrived for me to attend the AGM. The event was being held at my old University, and better still, there was a discount if you were a Trade Union Rep, which I am. I thought, Hell, why not, it might be fun!

It was such an eye-opening and inspiring conference, which gave me the opportunity to meet many ordinary people, doing extraordinary things in support of human rights across the world. One minute I would be talking to a 15 year old girl who organised a school trip to visit the refugee camps in Calais and ended up raising thousands of pounds in support; the next I’d be hearing a BBC correspondent tell me all about the plight of the residents of the Chittagong province in Bangladesh; the next minute I’d be chatting to a teenager called Arthur (who, most disappointingly, I have been unable to find on Facebook) who set up the Canterbury Amnesty Group and stood up to propose the motion against the use of unmanned drones in the miliary. I ended the weekend feeling honoured to have met so many human rights defenders, and am now considering setting up a Doncaster Amnesty group, as there isn’t one in this town!

One of the major campaigns being showcased at the Conference was the campaign to give women in Afganistan the right to vote. All of the delegates at the Conference were asked to ‘vote’ for the change in the law, by signing a petition with a purple thumbprint. The signatories each had their picture taken, and the full gallery is here! Hands up who can spot me?

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Well, as you may have gathered, I am rather partial to a bit of crafting, and fortunately my weekend at Amnesty Conference gave me plenty of opportunity to get my craft on. Amnesty were in the process of making an beautiful banner for the Women’s Rights in Afganistan campaign, and for this they needed everyone to write a message of solidarity around their thumb print  on a sheet of white fabric.

These were added to the fantastic banner panels you can see below.

By the end of the Conference, there were enough messages to complete the banner. That’s collective-crafting for a good cause right there!

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My weekend at Amnesty Conference has really inspired me to get more involved in such a great organisation. I would really like to set up a local Amnesty group, although I don’t really know where to start! However, after seeing how people are using their creativity to spread the message of defending human rights, I would definitely like there to be more chances to craft for a good cause.

For those of you who enjoy a bit of baking, maybe you would like to hold an AmnesTea Party at your workplace? I think I’m going to give it a go!

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