3 ways to fight for human rights in your community

Get involved in your local area and help support human rights across the world.

1. Join (or start) a local group

Organizing or joining a campaigning group in your local community is a great way to meet like-minded people and take action on the issues you care about. Local groups can help spread the word about Amnesty’s campaigns with stalls at music events, bars or festivals. You can also organize public events which raise awareness and money and encourage action on the big issues.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead, American anthropologist

If you’re setting a group up, try to meet every month, and have a regular activity such as writing letters for people suffering human rights abuses. Make sure every member has a role related to their skills or interests. For example, former teachers could help link up with schools, or musicians could help connect you with the local music scene. Finally, remember to inspireyour group with films, speakers, Amnesty literature, conferences and campaign info.

2. Meet your politicians

Amnesty’s campaigns often involve trying to push our elected leaders to take action. Politicians can raise issues in parliament, talk to government ministers about campaigns, and help to build international pressure for change. If you’re nervous about meeting them, remember the power of Amnesty. We are 7 million strong, with more than 50 years’ experience of campaigning on human rights. Politicians know and respect that. 

Start with an email or letter, articulating what the issue is and what you want from them. Present the facts, rather than using emotional language, as human rights abuses speak for themselves. Wait a week, then follow-up with a call and arrange to meet. You could even invite them to one of your events. Follow-up on the meeting by phone or email to make sure they do what they said they would do.

3. Organize a stunt

An eye-catching street action or stunt will make sure the authorities and the media hear your call for change. It’s also a great way to help your supporters and volunteers understand the issues. First of all, think of the single, simple message you want to get across. Because it’s usually so urgent, it has to be easy to understand so people can join in. Then devise creative ways of engaging with the public – think of props, costumes and slogans for banners.

Of course, the most important aspect of any street action or stunt is people. Engage Amnesty activists, members and other local groups as early as possible, so they feel part of the event. Allocate roles – for example, you’ll need a media spokesperson, volunteer manager and a photographer. Then you need to promote your action on social, and make sure you have all the materials and equipment you need – loudspeaker, placards, flyers and more.

With thanks to: Jennifer Jaynes, Amnesty group secretary, UK; Randa Warda, Amnesty group manager, Sydney, Australia; Connie Chan, senior campaigner, Amnesty in Hong Kong.

This article originally appeared in Wire magazine, January-March 2016.