Sometimes, a letter can change someone’s life. That’s the idea behind Write for Rights (W4R), our global letter-writing campaign. We’ve been doing it every year for 20 years and today, it’s the world’s biggest human rights event.
What is Write for Rights?
Like most great things, it began with a group of friends and one big idea. A group of activists in Warsaw, Poland, decided to celebrate Human Rights Day (10 December) a little differently. They held a 24-hour letter-writing marathon, writing letters day and night on behalf of people whose rights had been wronged.
Write for Rights is a moment when Amnesty’s global movement of ten million people in more than 170 countries comes together as one to take action and challenge injustice. From 2,326 letters in 1991 to 4.5 million letters, tweets, petition signatures and more in 2020, Write for Rights supporters have used the power of their words to unite behind a common purpose – backing people no matter where they are in the world.
Together, we’ve helped transform the lives of more than 100 people over the years, freeing them from torture, harassment, or unjust imprisonment. When everyday ordinary people like you challenge injustice we move closer to a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.
Join in today: write a letter, change a life.
The last couple of years has seen communities band together in a way we’ve never witnessed before. During Write for Rights we can band together once again to challenge injustice and to make a difference in the cases below.
- Mikita from Belarus was wrongfully arrested at a protest when he was 16 years old and sentenced to five years in prison.
- Zhang took to social media to tell the truth about Covid-19 in China. She was detained and sentenced to four years in prison.
- Mohamed is Human Rights lawyer in Egypt who has been falsely accused of terrorism, and locked in prison for defneding the rights of marginalized people.
- Ciham, born in the US, was arrested and disappeared when trying to flee Eritrea. She has been missing for nine years now, with no action from the US government.
- In Guatemala, Bernado has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his involved in a peaceful protest in protection of his people’s land
- 15-year-old Palestinian Janna lives in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. She began documenting military violations at age seven, and has been harassed and threatened for it ever since.
- Wendy was marching in a Women’s Rights protest in Mexico where she was wounded by shots fired by police. Those responsible for the violence have not been brought to justice.
- In 2020, Imoleayo joined other young people on the streets of Nigeria to protest police violence. Two weeks later he was arrested in his home and locked in an underground cell for 41 days.
- University student Rung has been vocal about equality and freedom of expression in Thailand. In March 2021 she was jailed for 60 years. She faces dozens of charges against her and life in prison.
- In recent years, Sphere NGO in the Ukraine have suffered dozens of attacks by violent anti-LGBTQIA+ groups, with no one being held accountable.
Theory of Change- How Do We Win?
1 – Research and advocacy
Amnesty International research teams work with people, and the families of people, who face human rights abuses around the world. Our experts do accurate, cross-checked research into these abuses and produce reports, raise awareness in the media and directly lobby governments to do the right thing.
If there is a chance that mass mobilisation can make a difference for someone, they are chosen to be part of the Write for Rights campaign.
2 – Mobilise
Through the power of collective action during Write for Rights, Amnesty activists send a strong message to stop human rights abuses. When we mobilise, our movement can make a real difference in people’s lives.
This collective action includes holding events, writing letters, signing petitions, sending tweets and even talking to the media to raise awareness and make a difference. The more we mobilise, the more difference we can make.
3 – Show Solidarity
As part of Write for Rights, Amnesty activists and supporters around the world send solidarity messages to each and every case. Solidarity messages bring hope to people and when they arrive in huge numbers, they show the authorities that the world is watching.
Let’s Get Started!
Let’s mobilise our Movement in Australia – both offline and online – to send a strong message to decision-makers to stop human rights abuses. We hope to come together this year to share the stories of the 10 Write for Rights cases in our communities and encourage people to take action collectively.
Join us on 10 December, Human Rights Day, for a day of mass mobilisation. Help raise awareness of the Write for Rights campaign and the 2021 cases by projecting the faces of the human rights defenders on buildings and landmarks in your area. Work together with your action group, family or friends to organise a projection – the more participants, the bigger our human rights impact!
During the Write for Rights campaign you will have lots of opportunities to get creative online. For example, you can organise a crafternoon where everyone paints, knits or crochets rainbows to send to Rung (which means Rainbow) in Thailand; or participate in a Twitter storm session to shed a light on Wendy’s case (Mexico) using the hashtag #ShoutForWendy (#GritoPorWendy).
If any of these ideas sparked your imagination and interest and you would like to be part of shaping some of these mobilisation opportunities, please get in touch with our Activism Coordinator Margherita at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this interactive map to find events close to you:
Organise your own Write for Rights event
Make an even bigger difference this year by organising your own event! From stalls to film screenings and letter-writing marathons to webinars, Write for Rights is a great time to come together to take action and celebrate a year of human rights wins. As always, please submit your event through the Host an Event form so we can add it to the interactive map above and provide additional support and resources.
Event idea: host a film screening of a movie or documentary which touches on one of the topics of this year’s Write for Rights (eg. LGBTIQA+ rights, climate justice, youth activism). For more information about hosting film screenings, check out our guide and list of film rights.
Inspiration from previous years
Last year during the 10 Days of Action, our activists organised many creative online events. Our Youth Advisory Group (YAG) arranged for award-winning slam poet Luka Lesson to perform live for an online audience to highlight the case of Paing Phyo Min, who was serving a 6-year sentence in Myanmar for performing satirical poetry. It was an emotional night of reflection and action-taking (Paing was released from prison on 17 April 2021!). Other activists organised a speaker event with human rights defender and previous W4R case Fred Bauma and an online concert by ethno-electric band Bashka.
In 2019, activists worked together with the VIC ALC to organise a letter-writing marathon in Melbourne. The event featured special presentations by humanitarian lifesaver Simon Lewis and Uyghur activist Nuria Khasim Yu, and a panel discussion on the future of human rights with youth activists from the Centre for Multicultural Youth, School Strike 4 Climate, Seed and Amnesty International.
Partnering with diaspora communities and other non-profit organisations is a great way to amplify the voices of people with lived experience, reach new audiences, build relationships and strengthen community ties.
These are just a few examples to get you started. Be creative, and think of a fun and engaging way to take action for Write for Rights in your community! If you have any questions, please reach out to the Organising team at email@example.com—we’d love to help!
If your group has done something creative and impactful for Write for Rights in the past, please share it in the National Activist Facebook group to inspire others.
Event idea: art auctions and concerts with local musicians are a great way to raise awareness and funds and take action for Write for Rights.
- Check the Activism planner first to make sure your date doesn’t clash with another fantastic W4R event that you would like to attend.
- Register your event through Amnesty’s online Host an Event page.
- Book your entertainment. What will draw people to your event? Will it be an interesting speaker, an exciting musician or poet?
- Can you partner with other groups to host this event? Reach out to them.
- Who is your likely audience? What format is best suited to motivate them to take action?
- Online events: refresh your memory on the ins and outs of Zoom by reading the How-to-Zoom guide.
- Are you involving people from affected communities in organising this event? If so, it might be worth brushing up on the ‘How to be a Genuine Ally’ training module.
- Our incredible Activist Communications Team is here to support with event promotion, like inclusion in the People Powered bulletin, contacting local media, social media support and content creation. Fill out this brief or email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Prepare materials, notes or questions so you have them handy during the event.
- Send your attendees reminder emails or post reminders in the Facebook event (1 day and 1 hour before the event).
- Online events: make sure your attendees have the link to access the online event. Check your internet speed, test your camera, microphone, lighting, and backdrop.
During the event
- Acknowledgement of Country, welcome your audience.
- Online events: Have one person available to help attendees who are experiencing technical issues or have questions during the event.
- Schedule in a time for people to write a letter/sign the petition during or before/after the event, or think about another creative action.
- You can request Amnesty merchandise through the Host an Event form. We have t-shirts, pens, badges, magnets, and stickers.
- You can also access and print off anything else you need from the General / Event activist resources – public liability certificate, PDF petitions, QR codes, media release forms and more.
- Follow this guide to make sure your event is COVID safe.
- If you need help setting up a zoom meeting / would like access to our professional account, please contact the Organising team.
Use the media to get your message out
Raise awareness of how your group is challenging injustice by reaching out to the media. In 2020, the Bendigo group advertised their Write for Rights event in their local paper to attract more attendees. You can do the same with these handy tips:
Send a media release
A media release is a relatively old-fashioned way to reach journalists in the most efficient way possible. To write a media release, use the inverted pyramid – give all the important information in the first paragraph, and add details in subsequent paragraphs. You have to compete for the journalists’ attention, so you should always begin with what is new and with a headline.
Then you can send it to all the relevant media outlets and journalists in your area – TV, radio, online, and newspapers. Always copy in the general contact email address just in case. Send the release about a week before your event. Follow up the release with a call a couple of days before the event (make sure your event doesn’t coincide with a major deadline for the media outlet). You may want to convince the journalist, in the nicest possible way, why the community would want to know about the event and what the journalist can capture at the event – they’ll want interviews, pictures, and video.
Need support with writing, editing or disseminating your media release? Get in touch with our Regional Media Specialist Keely from the Activist Communications Team by completing this brief.
Write a letter to the editor
A letter to the editor of your local newspaper is a way for the paper to hear from its readers about issues in the community or the wider world. The key, as with the media release, is that you have to really compete for the editor’s attention, so you need to make the letter compelling. Here are some tips on how to write a compelling letter to the editor.
List your event
Listings are an extremely easy way to drum up interest in your event. There are a wide range of listing/ticketing websites which give you free listings (eg. Eventfinda, Humanitix, Eventbrite, local council websites). You simply need a blurb about your event, all the details of how someone can be involved, and an image to go with it.
Let us know how it went!
- Please fill out the Event Evaluation Form to let us know how your event went—evaluations enable us to report on events, recognise your work and address any issues.
- Share your pictures and success via the National Facebook group for activists.
- Send all your letters and petitions back to the Sydney action centre at: Amnesty International, Locked Bag 23, Broadway NSW 2007 OR scan and email them to email@example.com and we’ll post them to the targets and cases.
- Please note that certain countries do not accept international post due to COVID-19. For those countries, we will hand over your letters as part of our Embassy delivery in 2022.
- Check out the W4R Activist Resources page to find:
- Case cards, posters, petitions, QR codes and template letters for all 10 cases;
- Blank letters to write your own letter to a target or a solidarity message, and more!
- Skill up via our online training modules.
- Keep track of upcoming opportunities via your Activism Planner.
- How to make your Virtual Event inclusive.
- Campaigning for human rights can be difficult. Burnout and vicarious trauma can happen and it’s important to keep a look out for the signs in yourself and your friends. You can check out our Sustainable Activism & Self Care guide and workshop here. It examines how we can better take care of ourselves as activists and what you can do to make sure your activism is sustainable!