The Amnesty International club, restarting this year at UTM, hopes to give students an avenue to combat this helplessness and to advocate for human rights from their own campus.
Amnesty International is a worldwide non-profit student organization that advocates for justice and the protection of human rights. Amnesty has no political, governmental, or corporate affiliation, and is a non-voting member of the United Nations.
The UTM chapter of Amnesty International was revived last year with the help of Spyridon Kotsovilis, a professor of political science at UTM. Siddhartha Sengupta, the president of UTM Amnesty International, is excited for what they can accomplish this year. Sengupta says that Amnesty International does their part to raise awareness about what abuse means and the effect it can have on people.
“Amnesty International helps show the gravity of these human rights issues and why we should care about them,” says Sengupta.
A project they are currently petitioning for is to stop the ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. “There has been a campaign of violence on the Rohingya people which has caused 500,000 people to flee their homes last month. The petition will be sent to Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar army, to end these human rights abuses and to let human rights workers have unimpeded access into the Rakhine state,” Sengupta added.
Future objectives aim to raise awareness about the kidnapping of Indigenous women with the REDress project. According to the official website, the REDress project seeks to collect 600 red dresses by community donation that will then be displayed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada in an attempt to draw attention towards violence against Aboriginal women. Amnesty UTM also hopes to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle for democratic freedom in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine.
Sengupta explains, “Overall, Amnesty International wants to make a change with fundraisers and petitions that can raise awareness about basic human rights, freedom, political oppression and arbitrary imprisonment.” Sengupta also elaborates on how they would like to set up Q&As with professors and students and to create mini lectures to present in classes, so that students across all disciplines can learn about various campaigns.
“One of UTM Amnesty’s goals is to create a discourse across all disciplines,” he says. “Students in political science, sociology, and psychology may talk about human rights in their classes, but students in natural sciences, for example, do not come into the conversation.”
Sengupta encourages students to advocate for causes they feel strongly about: “We want the campus to come up to us so we can give them the resources to help them. This is a crowd-sourced club. It’s not just the executives, but the students who get involved will drive this initiative.”
Sengupta emphasizes that volunteering with Amnesty International is a great way for UTM students to get involved, defend human rights, and to make a difference in the global community, where activities will also be recognized on their co-curricular record.
“The goal for Amnesty at UTM is to advocate for as many campaigns as humanly possible and to bring as much awareness to the world as possible,” says Sengupta.
Amnesty International’s first general meeting is scheduled on October 26th from 6-8 p.m.