by Kim Kriege, Secondary School English and Theory of Knowledge teacher
Never underestimate people power. Write For Rights is an annual letter writing campaign that engages millions of people around the world. Each year, Amnesty International highlights ten human rights cases happening right now. After learning about these cases, people write letters of solidarity to the individual themselves, or letters of appeal to the governing institution. The letters are then mailed to the respective countries, where this type of international attention has made a measurable impact over the years.
The majority of the time, these ten cases are prisoners of conscience—someone persecuted for their beliefs or identity. Examples range from Mikita Zalatarou, a sixteen year old in Belarus jailed for six months without trial, to Zhang Zhan, a Chinese journalist currently jailed for reporting on Covid in 2020.
The Grade 10 English students at YIS investigated this year’s ten cases and held their own Write For Rights day on October 14th. As part of their unit on Fairness and Development, the students invited the YIS community to write letters in the library. Each group explained their chosen case to their audience, and instructed visitors to sit down and write short letters themselves. The event was a complete success, with over one thousand letters written!
Here are a few reflections on our YIS Write For Rights day from the students themselves:
- “It was very inspiring to know that we were actually applying our English and literacy skills to make a real difference in the world, and hopefully get these victims to a place where they feel as though their actions have been justified.”
- “We managed to talk to a lot of different people, even 5th graders, about the issues and get the word out there and hopefully inspire them to take some action.”
- “Usually, when I have to talk in front of others I get nervous but since I knew the topic well, and as it's human rights, it's easy to talk about passionately, I didn't feel nervous. In fact, I was willing to talk more as it was enjoyable.”
- “I was able to study a world that I did not know existed.”
- “Watching people read my editorial and tell me how much they enjoyed my writing really made me feel really proud.”
- “Having 700 students is a blessing when it comes to fighting for a cause.”
If you are interested in also writing a letter, it’s not too late! You can access the case files here. On the second page of each template, you will find the relevant address and other ways to take action on your own social media.
Advocacy and social justice may have been part of our first Grade 10 unit, but they can continue to be a priority in our lives beyond our school community.