Write for Rights – the life-changing power of words

Reading the news can be really depressing. Sometimes there seems to be so much wrong in the world, the idea of changing it for the better feels impossible. But as Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign shows, you can make a big difference by doing something “little”. 

Writing a letter, sending a tweet, signing a petition. Surely you can’t change the world with something so simple? Yes, you can!

Since Write for Rights started in 2001, millions of people, just like you, have changed the lives of those whose human rights had been stripped from them. In fact, since 2001, more than 50 million actions have been taken, while over 100 people featured in our campaign have seen a positive outcome to their case! Taking just a little bit of time to send, post or write a letter really does make the world of difference to the people we have supported through the campaign – and we’re continuing to make an impact.

Charges dropped against activists

Joanah Mamombe, Cecillia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, from Zimbabwe, were arrested in 2020 after leading an anti-government protest. Following their arrest, they were beaten and sexually assaulted by the authorities. Their injuries were so horrific they were hospitalized.

While they were recovering, Joanah, Netsai and Cecillia were charged with criminal offences relating to the protest and later re-arrested and charged with faking their ordeal. While Netsai fled the country, Joanah and Cecillia’s case went to trial.

Two women holding letters.
Cecillia Chimbiri and Joanah Mamombe received letters of support sent to them as a part of the Write for Rights campaign.

As part of Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign 2022, our supporters took action for the trio, while Amnesty International Zimbabwe supported them throughout their trials. In July 2023, Joanah and Cecillia were finally acquitted. While reading the letters of support, Joanah said:

“Thank you so much to our Amnesty International friends for writing all these letters. We are now beginning our journey to heal.”

Human rights defender free 

Bernardo Caal Xol, a Guatemalan teacher and environmental activist, worked tirelessly to defend communities affected by hydroelectric projects on the Cahabón river in northern Guatemala. In November 2018 he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on bogus charges aimed at preventing his human rights work.

Man sits at a table with a pile of letters.
Bernardo Caal Xol reads letters sent from Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign. Nearly half a million letters were sent asking for his release from prison.

During Write for Rights 2021 more than half a million actions were taken for Bernardo and in March 2022 he was released. In a video message to Amnesty International activists, he said: 

“I, Bernardo Caal Xol, a member of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people of Guatemala, am grateful to each and every one of you. You have given me hope for the justice, liberty and equality that must prevail in every people and nation.” 

Father of three reunited with family 

On 30 June 2021, Burundian human rights defender Germain Rukuki was released from prison, four years into a 32-year sentence. He had been found guilty of a number of sham charges relating to his human rights work.

He was jailed before getting a chance to hold his youngest child, born just weeks after he was arrested in July 2017. His family were forced to flee the country for fear of reprisals. Initially unable to leave Burundi following his release, Germain was finally reunited with his family in Belgium in February 2022.

A family standing together in an airport.
On 5 February 2022, Germain Rukuki was finally reunited with his family in Belgium. After serving more than four years in prison, Germain met his youngest son for the first time.

Supporters from around the world took more than 436,000 actions calling for Germain’s release. He told Amnesty International: 

“Write for Rights really does have a positive impact. Their support has made me, Germain Rukuki, come out of prison even more committed to defending human rights.” 

You too can change the world and here’s how

Write for Rights 2023 is nearly here! This year’s campaign will feature 11 people who have paid a great price for speaking truth to power. 

If you have any doubts that your words can make a difference, Jani Silva, an environmental activist from Colombia can assure you they do. Jani’s fearless opposition to environmental contamination and human rights violations had frightening consequences. She was followed, intimidated, and threatened with death. Following the 2020 Write for Rights campaign, Jani said: 

“I am so very grateful for the letters. From the bottom of my heart, this campaign has kept me alive. It’s what has stopped them from killing me, because they know that you are there.” 

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