Rachel Lim

Rachel Lim

In Rachel’s Own Words:

In high school, I was aware of Amnesty International’s mission but didn’t truly yet understand the depth of their human rights work.

In November of 2018, I was occupied with my duties as President of my high school’s Z-Club, a high school branch of Zonta International, an organization that empowers women and girls through service and advocacy. Around that time of year, we focus on preparing for the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. While researching current issues related to the campaign, I came across Amnesty International Canada’s online action and petition against the non-consensual sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada. After urging members of my club to sign the petition to end the coercive and forced sterilization of Indigenous women, I soon joined the Amnesty Mississauga Group 177, led by Mohamed Fetaih, Amnesty Canada fieldworker and Director.

While I’m still a Mississauga Group member, my experience in the Amnesty International Canada English Speaking (ES) community has since expanded to the National Organizers Program and other Amnesty structures. I am now a member of the Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRD) Sub-Team of the newly formed Climate Justice and Corporate Accountability Specialized Team and the MMIWGT2S and Women Environmental Defenders Sub-Teams for the Gender Rights Specialized Team. To ensure Amnesty Canada’s work is standardized on all levels, I serve as the Head of External Affairs at Amnesty International uOttawa, where I liaison between the local level (our university club) and the national level (Amnesty International Canada).

Most recently, during W4R 2020, I volunteered as a youth influencer on Instagram. I also spoke at the virtual write-a-thon Livestream on December 14, where I introduced the Jani Silva case alongside Kathy Price, Amnesty Canada’s lead campaigner for Latin America.

Something I admire about AI is its critical focus on youth leadership. In September, I was selected as a Visual Arts Editor and Graphic Designer for Amnesty Canada’s biannual arts and literature magazine by youth, for youth. A large factor of my desire to join The Matchstick Editorial Team was to ensure we recognize BIPOC artists, specifically Indigenous creators. As the Chair of Amnesty Canada’s Business and Human Rights + Indigenous Rights Specialized Team, I hope to further my solidarity work around Indigenous rights. I reside in Brampton, ON, on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. It is my duty as a non-Indigenous person to commit myself to work against the systems of oppression that have dispossessed Indigenous peoples of their lands and denied their rights to self-determination on Turtle Island.

By having a role in various projects and sub-committees, I promote Amnesty’s mission in multiple outlets while ensuring I highlight Indigenous voices. My uOttawa Chapter hosted a virtual Climate Crusaders event, which featured Lakota and Mohawk water rights activist Makasa Lookinghorse, one of my contacts from a previous initiative (3 Teens for Clean Water). In November, our team also organized “A Night to Remember: A Discussion About Indigenous Rights,” where we had Indigenous activists, educators, and campaigners discuss the significance of Indigenous leadership in climate justice, Indigenous language revitalization, systemic racism in academia, and treaty rights.

Recently, I was chosen as one of five youth representatives to be a member of Amnesty International’s Youth Advisory Board, an internal network, part of the larger Global YAB. Together, Amnesty International (AI), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) are partnering to develop a documentary film on stories of young human rights educators. Acceptance into this initiative was the highlight of my 2020 as I now anticipate the scheduled launch, in September 2021, in the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, on the occasion of the UN Human Rights Council High-Level Panel Discussion.

Amnesty International has provided me with numerous opportunities to explore my strongest passions through engaging in meaningful human rights education. After completing my BSocSc, major in Conflict Studies and Human Rights and minor in Indigenous Studies, I hope to pursue graduate education, specializing in Indigenous issues. I only aim to continue immersing myself in this heart-wrenching field that has transformed me into a fearless agent of positive social change.

THANK YOU, Rachel!

Anisa Jama

Anisa Jama

In Anisa’s Own Words:

 As a young, black, Muslim woman, I understand the unique ways that systems of oppression work to negatively impact the lives of many. I am also the daughter of immigrants who had escaped civil unrest in a war-torn country. It is through this lens that I have cultivated a deep passion for social equity, advocacy and human rights activism. During my years of undergraduate study, I earned my B.A. in Criminology and Human Rights and although I wanted to be a voice for those who have routinely been silenced, I felt that I did not have a tangible means of doing so. I had the knowledge but not the tools for creating real, meaningful change.

I later learned about Amnesty International’s work during my time as a fundraiser. Here, I was able to get a glimpse into some of the urgent campaigns affecting many marginalized and disenfranchised communities. When I heard about the launch of the National Organizers program in the fall of 2018, I knew that I wanted to get involved. This was the beginning of actualizing my role as a global citizen through activism and advocacy. Since then, I have participated in numerous initiatives including those related to women’s rights, anti-racism, prisoners of conscience, Indigenous rights and climate change.

I am most proud of the letter writing actions that I have organized and participated in. The annual Write for Rights events in particular, have always been inspiring and empowering for me as an organizer. It is the reason why I have centered most of my activism around letter writing. In the past, I mobilized groups of volunteers to sign petitions and call on governments to take a stand against the abuse of Indigenous women including those defending the Amazon rainforest and those who have undergone forced sterilization here in Canada. More recently, I helped organize an international anti-Black racism letter writing online event which was in response to the heinous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Regis Korchinski-Paquet. I appreciate that along with sending letters, we are encouraged to write cards in solidarity with those impacted by human rights abuses. These cards are then mailed directly to them as a reminder that they have not been forgotten and that we are actively fighting for their rights and freedoms.

The National Organizers program is a unique one which has shown me that I can make a difference both locally and abroad, regardless of my age or any other factors. It has also taught me the power of collective activism through our voices and actions.


Abonti Nur Ahmed

Abonti Nur Ahmed

In Abonti's Own Words:

I was born in the US and raised as most first-generation American children were, with the hope that North America could solve all our problems. But it didn’t take long for my family to realize that this was simply untrue. Hard work rarely ever led to results and whenever it did, my parents were accused of “stealing jobs”. In 2008 my family moved from the US to Canada. It is strange knowing that no matter where you seemed to go, these same experiences follow you around.

I had always known where I stood when it came to “controversial issues” (still can’t believe that human rights are controversial). It did not feel though that I had the resources or knowledge to object the injustices that were around me, let alone the world.

One of my friends had been volunteering for a while with Amnesty International when she invited me to their first Youth Café in Toronto. I was reluctant to go, assuming that I would be practically alone. As I settled in, it was anything but true. Around me I found peers excited and determined to not only learn about injustices but also to fight against them. It was exhilarating seeing and hearing other young people feeling as strongly as I do. Later that night I had expressed my interest in joining the organization and honestly, it was one of the major points in my life. 

I became a National Organizer with Amnesty International Canada. As a National Organizer, I was able to help plan and organized events that shed light on serious human rights issues. Most recently I had been a part of a team of around 4-5 people, and together we facilitated a public event shedding light on false stereotyping surrounding those who seek refuge. That night, we used various forms of art, words and actions to raise awareness and engage young people into taking action.

One of my favourite things as an organizer is how versatile the position is. I remember when I first joined, I was afraid to voice my opinions, I wasn’t used to it. So I opted to take the notes for the meetings. As I began feeling more comfortable, I took on planning roles, sometimes proposing my own initiatives. It sparked the leadership in me, a skill that I wasn’t even aware I possessed.

Through Amnesty, I also found my interest in social media, and in how we can utilize it to raise awareness about issues and to engage people to take action. The support I always felt pushed me to try things I may have not otherwise tried. Through Amnesty I found an outlet to express myself and to be a part of the change I want to see in the world.

THANK YOU, Abonti!

Luna Cardenas-Ibarra

Luna Cardenas-Ibarra

In Luna’s Own Words:


My passion for human rights started from a very young age. In 5th grade I started my own club for Because I am a Girl which lasted 4 years; the club fundraised enough money to sponsor a young girl in Colombia. I realized I wanted to continue my involvement with non-profit charities and organizations. It wasn’t long after that I found out about Amnesty International. Every year my church hosted a large letter-writing campaign and everyone in the congregation would participate. Once I was old enough, I began to read the case summaries for the campaigns, and I was shocked. Even as an immigrant I had still grown up in the bubble of Canadian privilege. My parents had always been careful to mute the news broadcasts when they started speaking about heavy world issues. Once I broke that bubble of “a perfect world”, I pledged to learn more and educate myself. I realized that the cases Amnesty was petitioning for weren’t stand-alone cases of human rights abuses; they represented a tiny percentage of the hundreds of thousands of human rights abuses happening daily. They were the indicators of a pattern that held hands with corruption and replicated itself time and time again. For me this was a scary revelation. It was the sort of revelation which at first made a young girl like me feel small and powerless. It was the sort of revelation which turned into a sense of responsibility. I got in contact with the national organizers coordinator at Amnesty who was happy to take me under her wing and introduce me to the hopeful world of activism.

Since my involvement with Amnesty I’ve been granted so many opportunities like attending the annual general meetings, regional meetings, letter writing events and so much more. One of the highlights was in 2019 when I was invited to AI Canada’s Human Rights College; a week-long intimate setting conference specifically for youth. I got to meet more young people like me with dreams as big as the ones on my shoulders. I learnt about the power of letter-writing, and why such traditional means of activism in a digital world are still so effective. I learnt about legality obstacles in human-rights cases, about government corruption cover-ups, OKA and so much more.

With so much information in my head I was able to take it all back and apply it to the community and people that surrounded me. I didn’t need to go across the world to make a difference and that was a much-needed reassurance for the young restless activist in me. At my high school, RH King Academy, I hosted multiple letter-writing campaigns, petition-signings, documentary screenings and one large-scale Red Dress Awareness Campaign which got the attention of the whole school and a local newspaper. I was able to apply my activism toolkit outside of Amnesty campaigns to real issues affecting my generation including the cuts to education, and the environmentalist movement of “Friday’s for Future”.

Since graduating from high school and moving to Ottawa, I’ve been able to expand my knowledge and community. Being in a city passionate about social justice has given me even more opportunities to attend large-scale rallies, protests, visit embassies and work with other young people to organize campaigns. As a Conflict Studies & Human Rights student I am now able to dedicate myself full-time to doing what I love most! I look forward to seeing where this journey takes me, and grateful for everything I’ve learnt along the way.


Rebecca Schmidtke

Rebecca Schmidtke

In Rebecca’s Own Words:

Rebecca taking action for the #RiosVivos communities during online event

I first discovered Amnesty International when I was in grade 10 after my teacher gave our Civics class a presentation on it. I instantly wanted to get involved, I’ve always been motivated to help others and to do my part to make the world a better place but I didn’t know how to affect that change on my own. I started looking into Amnesty after that and signed up to receive their Urgent Actions and began participating in their campaigns online.

It is when I got to university when I really got more involved. My school had an Amnesty International Club and it was the first extracurricular I ever signed up for and I would be heavily involved in it for the next four years. In my first year I joined the executive committee as the Events Coordinator, my first big task for Amnesty was to help plan our Genocide Awareness Month. The first campaign I really worked on for this group was for the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia who were at risk of genocide. I started a correspondence with the Colombian government in 2014 to put protective measures in place for Indigenous Rights Activist, Juan Pablo Gutiérrez who was being threatened for his work. Seeing how Amnesty’s letter writing campaigns, can have success really motivated me to continue this work and to be involved as possible. From then on I have been heavily involved with Amnesty’s participating the CNCA’s campaign ‘Open for Justice’.

In my third year of university and as President for our Amnesty Chapter, I organized an event on Indigenous Land Defenders in Latin America with a letter writing action to our MP, Mark Gerretsen to petition him to table a Private Members Bill based on the Open for Justice Campaign. We had around twenty-thirty letters that we went sent to Mr. Gerretsen and he took notice of our work. He asked to meet with me to discuss the campaign and how he could help. Myself and another member of our group prepared a report for him on the Campaign, the model legislation, and what we hoped he’d do. After our meeting he agreed to table the Bill for us, which was an incredible feeling. I had another experience where I got to see Amnesty’s work have an impact and again it motivated me to do more. In the weeks following this meeting, we found out the government actually had plans to create a Bill to enact an Extractive Sector Ombudsperson. Which has since been created (although not with the exact powers we want, so we’re still working on this campaign!)

After I left university, I wanted to make sure I could still be involved with Amnesty and I joined the Business and Human Rights + Indigenous Rights Team here in Toronto, after about a year with this team I became the Chair and I joined the National Organizers Program. Being in both teams have allowed me to connect with many like minded activists who motivate me everyday to continue fighting for human rights! I have gained more skills and learned more about the topics I am most passionate about. I am really proud of my BHR+IR Team, in the past year we have worked on many successful campaigns, one of our members created a letter to send out to MPs during our last federal election to ensure that the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would be a priority and would get implemented after the election. This letter ended up becoming a national letter writing initiative for Amnesty International Canada. We are still working on this campaign and I hope that we see some positive progress with it soon.

I feel so lucky to be a part of the National Organizers Program. I have been able to work alongside so many inspiring youth leaders in activism and it has made my work better. I am in awe of my peers in this program and all the wonderful initiatives and events they’ve put on in their communities.

Being a part of Amnesty International has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, I am doing work that I can be proud of, and getting to meet incredible individuals that I am now lucky to call my friends. I am excited for my future with Amnesty and to see what comes next!

THANK YOU, Rebecca!

Monica Romero

Monica Romero

In Monica’s Own Words:

Monica smiling

When I moved to Toronto two years ago, I knew that I wanted to continue volunteering but I wasn’t sure where the best fit for me would be. The majority of my work and volunteer experiences have been rooted in social enterprise and working with individuals to reduce vulnerabilities associated with poverty and gender-based violence. Up until this point, I had focused my efforts primarily on working directly with individuals in my community. After hearing one of my classmates speak about Amnesty International by raising awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, I was interested in learning more about the organization and advocacy work overall.

In March 2019, I joined the National Organizers Program of Amnesty International Canada where I have been able to connect and collaborate with inspiring members from across the country. Since joining the program, I have focused my efforts on bridging awareness and advocacy to student groups and organizations. During my undergraduate degree in business, human rights was a topic that was never heavily mentioned in any courses that I took. Now in social work, I have been able to observe the integration of human rights and advocacy at a much deeper level. Through my work with Amnesty International, I wish to encourage participation and awareness of advocacy and human rights action by working with students that may not receive exposure through their academics or extracurriculars.

Monica in group photos with other volunteers

By working with Enactus York – a student-run entrepreneurial organization that seeks to create projects around social issues – I have been able to create a platform for discussions and actions on human rights to take place in an organization that is composed primarily of business students. In November 2019, the group engaged in a Write for Rights event where they were able to write letters advocating for cases involving youth. This was an exceptionally impactful moment for me as it brought a team of students together to truly use their voices for human rights defending.

Monica in group image with other volunteers

In addition to being involved with the National Organizers Program, I work with Amnesty International’s Action Network on Women’s Human Rights. This group focuses on issues that impact women both locally and globally that are rooted in gender inequality. My work with this group has further inspired my future goals of continuing to work in the area of gender-based discrimination and violence through a career in law and social work.

Although it has only been one year, I have learned a great deal from being involved with Amnesty International. I look forward to continuing to grow and learn from others while working towards promoting advocacy and human rights activism.

THANK YOU, Monica!

Shantel Watson

Shantel Watson

In Shantel’s Own Words:

Shantel holding small poster.Following my experience in high school as a member of a human rights initiative created to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, I knew that I wanted to further my dedication to human rights advocacy and activism, and that Amnesty International would provide me with a credible platform to accomplish this.

Since joining Amnesty International, my human rights focus has expanded to include efforts supporting the work of Earth and Land Defenders in Latin America and Canada. As a member of the Amnesty International Toronto Business&Human Rights and Indigenous Rights Specialized Team, I have been involved in the organization of various events such as a screening of the short documentary “Uprivers” which highlighted the environmental and social impacts of the Mount Polley Mining Disaster in British Colombia. We also organized the “Indigenous Issues Are Election Issues” event in 2019, where individuals from the GTA were invited to write letters to federal election candidates, urging them to make the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a priority if elected.

Shantel with another volunteer holding poster.

Since joining the National Organizers Program of AI Canada, I have been supported in my own endeavors.  In 2019, I partnered with my alma-mater to educate high school students about the significance of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This action – supported and inspired by the Red Feather Project- is an art-based initiative created by digital arts and photography instructor Heather Reid, to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. I worked with members of the Red Feather Committee to ensure that this initiative was inclusive of members of the 2SLGBTQQIA community. We invited Laureen-Blu Waters, a grandmother elder advisor to the National Inquiry to join us in a discussion panel at Cardinal Leger Secondary School in Brampton. The panel taught students about the history of colonialism and how it has informed gender and racial based discrimination and violence against Indigenous peoples. On the National Day of Action for MMIWG on October 4th, we had two-spirit Ojibway performer Neenokasi, also referred to as Hummingbird, share their talents and knowledge with us during a vigil which was held for students and members of the public to attend.

Shantel in front of slideshow projection giving speech.

Recently, I was chosen to represent Amnesty International Canada as the only youth member of the Canadian English-speaking delegation to this year’s Global Assembly. This is an incredible honour for me, and a role that I remain committed to through intense preparation leading up to the Assembly this summer.

Following the completion of my undergraduate degree in International Relations, it is my intention to study international human rights law, after which I hope to not only practice law, but to also specialize in human rights and anti-corruption investigative research.

Being involved with Amnesty has helped me to craft my career path and to fulfill what I believe to be one of my key purposes in life. From fundamental skill building to networking and mentorship, this organization has provided me with all of the critical tools that I have needed to be successful in my human rights activism and advocacy.

THANK YOU, Shantel!

Cassandra DeFreitas

Cassandra DeFreitas

In Cassandra’s Own Words:

    In my first year of university I decided that I wanted to get involved in school clubs and find out what I was truly passionate about, as there were not many opportunities to do so in my home town. Entering my first year of social work, I knew that I wanted to help people; but that was very broad. Before the annual club’s fair at my university, I spent a Sunday afternoon reading through all 500+ clubs York has and made a list of which organizations I wanted to go talk to and find out more information about.

    Amnesty made my list, along with many other ‘helping’ organizations. After the fair, I had joined 4 clubs all with different focuses; one on youth mentoring, one on governance, my student association, and Amnesty. After seeing the first-year representative executive application open for Amnesty, I decided I wanted to apply- and if I did not get the position, I would stay a general member and also get more involved in the other clubs I joined.

    I had gotten an interview with two executives that I still stay in touch with today. I showed up in a blazer, dress pants, and flats, had woken up extra early to do my hair and makeup and printed off my resume. I was a first-year student in my second or third week at a university that had more students than my entire town, I really did not know what to expect. Upon walking into the Amnesty office, I knew two things. One, I was overdressed, and two, that this would be a space I would make memories in for the rest of my university career. The posters up on the wall of protests, messages of solidarity, placards on the floor, and two outspoken women sitting across from me conducting my interview; I knew this was the place I wanted to be, not in my stuffy blazer and mascaraed eyes.

    Throughout the interview, I had an amazing conversation about the issues with modern approaches to concerns over missing and murdered indigenous women. I was successful with my first-year representative position and hit the ground running. By the end of my first year, I was co- coordinating events with directors and was already employing the Amnesty way of thinking in my studies and daily life.

    From here, I ran for a director position in my second year. I was originally set on becoming the director of events and campaigns, but unfortunately lost to an amazing candidate who I still have the pleasure of working alongside today, and became the administration director (secretary). This position was a blessing in disguise and really helped me in understanding the behind the scenes aspects of advocacy and aided my in learning to navigate bureaucratic spaces, especially when fighting for ‘radical’ causes. My third year would be my final year in classes before moving onto field study. It is common that presidents are in their fourth/ final year and have been with the club for longer than two years. However, I knew that I needed to run because I would forever regret it if I was not able to finish off my last full year on the York campus without carrying the Amnesty name on my back. I went out on a limb and ran for the position and was successful; which has brought me to where I am today.

    Today, I am the president of Amnesty International at York University’s chapter. In my second year, a staff from Amnesty Toronto and I had a discussion about me getting more involved in Amnesty as an organization outside of the University community. I then became the co- chair (president) for Amnesty International’s Action Network on Women’s Human Rights where I work with amazing people in the GTA around issues directly affecting women and support/ creating local events around similar topics. Most recently, I was chosen as one of 8 other youth in Canada to serve on Amnesty International’s National Youth Action and Advisory Committee to work towards implementing the Youth Strategy nationally and internationally to better equip youth to conduct these important conversations around human rights.

    Now, I have been asked to declare ‘one experience’ that really inspired me as an activist with Amnesty International, and I honestly do not think that I can answer this question. Amnesty consistently amazes me at how they are able to conduct themselves on a global scale. Time and time again I have been reading a textbook and I see Amnesty quoted up and down the page and I am inspired. I read their reports, articles, petitions and I am inspired. When politicians do something awful for human rights development, I think, “how is Amnesty going to tackle this one?”. They have always amazed me with their publications.

    I will say, however, I do not really know if 2016 Cassandra knew what she was getting herself into until I attended my first Write for Rights event. I had heard the current president, executives, directors, and team talk about how it was the biggest and most important event of the year. However, I do not think I realized how large and important this event or Amnesty was until I attended my first Write for Rights in November of 2016. Sitting beside someone else who was writing for the same case as me and getting to know why that person decided to take 5 minutes out of their busy university day to write a letter for someone they had never met, and will probably never met, really meant something to me and made me realize the beauty of human rights defending.

    Before attending Write for Rights, I was questioning whether or not human rights advocacy was for me. Would I ever even be able to make any sort of impact? Should I just go into something that would make me money? I was also feeling a little low at that point because I was now in midterms and finishing final case studies and papers for my social work and human rights classes. We never covered any ‘happy’ topics because there always is some sort of injustice going on. I was discouraged that not as many people cared and that there were people dying and suffering and there was virtually nothing I could do about it. After going home that November night of Write for Rights, I had done more research on Amnesty, on Write for Rights, on some of their campaigns like No More Stolen Sisters and I Welcome and had a restored amount of faith in the future, and knew that my future included me in the scene fighting for human rights.


Roshni Khemraj

Roshni Khemraj

In Roshni’s Own Words:

roshni holds a small white board with the words      I got involved with Amnesty in my first year at York University. I remember walking past the Amnesty International at York (AIY) table in the major hub of campus several times and often pausing to sign a petition, hear more about their current campaigns and events and chat with the executive members. However, it wasn’t until my second year that I got more involved with AIY as an Events and Campaigns Ambassador. The warm welcome I received and the empowering feeling of support and believe in my ability to advocate for human rights helped me find my place on campus, discover a lifelong passion for human rights and build my confidence. 

    In the years since I became involved with Amnesty, I went on to be the Promotions Director and later, the President of my campus chapter. During this time, I’ve had the honour and privilege of seeing AIY grow to new heights; from a small, grassroots club, to one of the largest and most recognizable clubs on campus. In a commuter campus of 55 000 undergraduate students, it can often be hard for clubs to establish a strong presence and successful outreach to the broader student population. However, in the 3 years that I’ve been involved in Amnesty, I can’t count how many people have seen us running an event, or even just putting up a display, and instantly messaged or sought me out to say ‘I just saw Amnesty again, you all do such great work on campus!’ From the bold yellow displays to our open-door meetings and proudly wearing our lit candles on sweaters, t-shirts, lanyards, stress balls and phone wallets, AIY has truly become a symbol of hope, strength, and friendship in a world that can sometimes seem too big to fix.

Roshni Khemraj stands infront of an Amensty International booth holding a sign-up form.

As I’ve since graduated from my undergraduate degree and am now in law school, I’ve built upon my passion for human rights advocacy and my knowledge about the work that Amnesty does globally, and I now sit on the National Youth Action and Advisory Committee (NYAAC) for Amnesty Canada along with eight other passionate and dedicated youth across the country. I look forward to the working for the next two years to expand Amnesty Canada’s sustainable youth engagement projects and build a stronger youth base for human rights activism in Canada.

When I started volunteering with Amnesty, I remember reading about the case of a woman from El Salvador named Maria Theresa Rivera who was sentenced to forty years in prison for simply suffering from a miscarriage and being charged with having an abortion. In El Salvador, abortion is banned under all circumstances – even when the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at risk. However, with Amnesty’s coordinated global action in the form of petitions, letters and spreading awareness, she was released in May 2016. The case of Maria Theresa is the one I think of most when discussing why I care about human rights and why I continue to do the activist work I do. Human rights advocacy, at face value, can appear to be disheartening when you consider the magnitude of injustice you’re taking on. I can’t count how many times I’ve been challenged by critics attempting to point out the apparent naivety of human rights work –

“You honestly don’t think you can rid the world of child labour, do you?”,

“Do these letters actually work?”,

“One signature doesn’t matter”  

Roshni Khemraj is sitting on the floor with a group of other volunteers while laughing and speaking. To all the critics, I say, yes. Yes, I do believe we can rid the world of injustice. Yes, these letters work. And yes, every single signature matters and plays a significant part in Amnesty’s global advocacy. The work we do undoubtedly has an impact, and it is cases like Maria Theresa’s that keep me motivated to take on large injustices faced by millions around the world- with a determined and optimistic mindset.

Joining AIY over three years ago was the best decision I made as an undergrad at York. It was at the beginning of my second year and I still had that lingering feeling of being a bit lost and feeling so small in such a big campus. With AIY, I found my voice, my best friends and most importantly, a sense of purpose. It is so empowering to know that every single day, I am a part of something bigger than myself and every day I spend collecting signatures and spreading awareness is part of a worldwide movement advocating for positive change and ensuring that everyone in the world can have their basic human rights granted. For me, AIY, and eventually Amnesty Toronto and Amnesty Canada, has become more than just a club and an organization I volunteer for. It has become a family full of passionate and unrelenting activists.


Feerass Ellid

Feerass Ellid

In Feerass’ Own Words:

Picture of Feerass infront of two monitors with the AITO website on them.I have been learning about human rights since I was a young child and continued to develop my knowledge while in university as a drama student. Many of the plays I studied were concerned with the humanity of people, often depicted against a political backdrop marred by human rights violations.

After university, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in technology. In 2017, I completed a course on modern website development. I wanted to find a way to bridge my passion for human rights and my tech skills, so I emailed Amnesty International Toronto to see if I could help with their website.  I am now a member of the AITO Web Team and in that capacity I regularly update the site with new information as well as perform site maintenance as needed.

I participated in the 2018 AITO Regional Meeting and found it particularly inspiring. A researcher and an activist specializing in web technologies were speakers at the event. They stressed the problems of internet security and privacy for human rights activists. I believe that the dissemination of information on an increasingly closed internet will be a growing concern for human rights organizations. To see both activists and researchers speaking about this topic left me feeling more informed as well as more hopeful.

I thoroughly enjoy my time volunteering with Amnesty International as it exposes me to human rights issues not just in faraway countries but right here in Canada. I highly encourage anyone to volunteer!