Matching Gift Challenge Ends Thursday – Don't Miss Out!

“As long as injustice and inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We must become stronger still.” – Nelson Mandela

We are shifting into overdrive!

The membership drive is coming to an end, and we’re close to meeting our new $300,000 matching gift challenge, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet!

We need to raise $94,570 by Thursday or we’ll lose the opportunity to double our funding to $600,000.

I know you won’t let that happen – you are Amnesty. Together we are the defenders of humanity, and we have work to do.

Please donate today – no later than Thursday – to help Amnesty secure a $300,000 matching gift.

More than 13,150 donors have risen to our September challenge, inspired by Amnesty’s successes and moved by an unwavering devotion to human rights.

I am humbled by this tremendous response, and I know the dissidents and human rights activists for whom we advocate are profoundly grateful for your support.

When political prisoner Yusak Pakage was released in July, he thanked you for his freedom. He spent almost six harrowing years in an Indonesian prison for waving a flag.

When Egyptian novelist Musaad Abu Fagr was released this summer, he thanked you for your letters. A featured case in our 2009 Global Write-a-thon, Musaad was detained for speaking out against the demolition of thousands of homes in the Sinai Peninsula.

For the unjustly imprisoned, we must light the candle still.

Facing execution despite significant and persistent doubts about his guilt, Troy Davis is alive today because of your letters and phone calls. In a devastating blow to his case, a federal court recently denied his petition for relief.

As long as there is hope, we will continue to fight for Troy Davis.

Honor their sacrifices. Make your commitment to human rights today with a gift to Amnesty.

Never doubt how powerful you can be when you join your light with ours. Thank you for all you do.

How Rugby Built a New Nation in South Africa

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

As a general rule, Americans don’t play rugby.  We are too litigious of a nation to allow grown men to bash into each other without being covered head to toe in protective gear. (Consequently, rugby playing nations think American football is for pansies.) So when I lived in South Africa, it was determined by newly found friends the need to educate me in the finer points of the game. This, of course, occurred over many pints of beer as they screamed at the television. Maybe American football and rugby aren’t so different after all…

Anyway, part of my education concerned explaining the importance of the 1995 World Cup. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected black African president of the Republic of South Africa. A new constitution was instituted. A new country was emerging. None of this was an easy transition, however-there was resentment, fear, anger, uncertainty, vengeance, forgiveness all wrapped up in confusing welter of emotion. But South Africa hosted the rugby World Cup that year and because of its host status automatically fielded a team in the competition. Despite long odds, South Africa won. This fragile, new State won the rugby World Cup!

Without fail, everyone who shared with me their version of this story-where they were and who they were with-had tears in their eyes or streaming down their face, despite ten intervening years, as they described the moment when Nelson Mandela walked on the field to present the trophy and the national anthem was played. People described entire bars standing on their chairs singing at the top of their lungs. One woman said she was jumping up and down on her bed and fell off, breaking her arm. Everyone stated that this was the moment South Africa became a new nation.

Invictus, the story of this defining moment, opens today in the US. This powerful film made me miss my friends in South Africa and the beauty of their stories about the promise of a new nation. It didn’t make me miss rugby. Despite all the beer and everyone’s best efforts, I just never really got into it.

Changing the Battle Against AIDS in South Africa

hiv_sa_150Yesterday on World AIDS Day, South Africa was in the news quite a bit. The executive director of UNAIDS was in Pretoria for the commemoration and along with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, called for greater HIV prevention measures. South Africa has the largest population of person’s living with HIV-nearly 6 million people. Globally, women are disproportionally affected by HIV and AIDS as the fastest rising group contracting the virus. In South Africa, women account for approximately 62% of all persons over age 15 living with HIV.

South Africa has a sad history of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Despite relentless calls by Nelson Mandela’s 46664 organization for comprehensive government programs, South Africa under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki was a tragic wasteland of an epidemic. At one point, Mbeki promoted a policy of natural herbs for treatment, continuously under-funded anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and condom disbursement programs and committed many other policy failures that many blame for not only doing little to lower infection rates but in fact contributing to an increased infection rate.

Thus far, the Zuma presidency has been markedly different. Yesterday the administration announced increased access for vulnerable populations, including “all HIV-positive children under the age of one would be eligible for treatment,” more pregnant women will receive ART, and more person’s dual diagnosed with tuberculosis will also receive ART. Further, Zuma committed the government to “ensuring that all health facilities in the country are equipped to offer HIV counselling, testing and treatment” rather than only those approved as ART dispersal centers.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Zimbabwe's Heroes

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Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams of WOZA

Zimbabwe gets a lot of bad press, but not many are aware of some of the amazing people making a difference there every day. These are people, who usually at great personal risk, fight for human rights, civil liberties, justice, equality and a better Zimbabwe for all. So here’s a shout out to some personal heroes of mine and I hope you are equally inspired.  (Feel free to share stories about other amazing human rights heroes in Zim or southern Africa in general in the comment section.)

Betty Makoni
Betty is a teacher who got tired of hearing about the relentless sexual abuse of young girls and decided to do something about it. She started the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe to provide a safe place, healing and support for young girls surviving sexual assault. Many of the girls were victimized because of a belief that sex with a virgin cures AIDS. As a result of her efforts, Betty has been targeted by security forces in Zimbabwe and forced to flee the country for her safety. A documentary film tells the story of Betty and the girls she helps. Betty has also been nominated as CNN’s Hero of the Year. You can vote for Betty on CNN’s web site until November 19th. Vote early and often! SEE THE REST OF THIS POST