Friday, July 5, 2013

I Can Help

Nelson Mandela lays in a hospital bed in South Africa waiting. I wonder if it reminds him of his 27 years in prison. He may not reach his 95th birthday, which is less than two weeks away on the 18th of June. It’s a day set aside as a call to action for people everywhere to make the world a better place.

For Mandela Day, the Nelson Mandela Foundation asks people to set aside 67 minutes for service, one minute for each year of his service to his country. Although there are organized events, one of the easiest things to do is post something on Facebook that celebrates, or brings awareness to a human rights issue for the 67 days starting with his birthday. That may sound like a lot of days to write about human rights, until you start looking for human rights issues. There’s no shortage of them.

Humanrights.com, Amnesty International and other sources report that individuals are:

  • Tortured or abused in at least 81 countries
  • Face unfair trials in at least 54 countries
  • Restricted in their freedom of expression in at least 77 countries

·         In Brazil in 2007, according to official figures, police killed at least 1,260 individuals—the highest total to date. All incidents were officially labeled “acts of resistance” and received little or no investigation.

·         In Uganda, 1,500 people die each week in the internally displaced person camps. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 have died in these camps.

·         In Guinea-Bissau, children as young as five are trafficked out of the country to work in cotton fields in southern Senegal or as beggars in the capital city. In Ghana, children five to fourteen are tricked with false promises of education and future into dangerous, unpaid jobs in the fishing industry.

·         The US State Department estimates 600,000 to 820,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year, half of whom are minors, including record numbers of women and girls fleeing from Iraq. In nearly all countries, including Canada, the US and the UK, deportation or harassment are the usual governmental responses, with no assistance services for the victims.

There are many organizations at work trying to end these problems. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one. The IRC provides health care, counseling and safe spaces to survivors of sexual violence in more than 17 countries. Their economic empowerment programs increase women’s income and ability to provide for themselves and their families. Through July 31, if 300 people pledge monthly support to the IRC, a donor will give $42,500.

Amnesty International is another well known one. They suggest ten ways to make a difference.

Once you start looking for human rights violations, the number of them is overwhelming. What can one do? I have given a few ideas and links to others here. In looking through these websites, perhaps one country or one organization will stand out to you, one cause will cry to you.

Don’t feel like you can do nothing in the wake of all the suffering. Choose to do something. You can do something for 67 minutes on the 18th, write something on your Facebook page for 67 days, or find another way to make a difference. It’s up to you. You can help.   

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