When students set out into the world of higher education, most want a good career with plenty of options and good pay.
Then there are the select few who hope to use their knowledge to make a difference in the world. Amnesty International at Eastern Michigan University is one such organization for students who hope to make a local and global difference.
The members of Amnesty International at Eastern Michigan University aren’t just driven by the aspiration to make a positive difference in the world, but by the drive to help others.
“I believe our purpose on Earth is to help others, and I feel the only way to show your gratitude is to help others if you have the opportunity,” former AIEMU Vice President Amina Mansaray said. “A lot of these issues are things people deal with on a daily basis; women’s rights, LGBT rights, not being able to speak out against your government or not being able to do so without harm. These issues affect everyone.”
As a sub-group of Amnesty International, EMU’s chapter hopes to make a difference locally and globally by spreading awareness and getting students involved with projects from signing petitions to learning how to write letters to government officials.
“The primary function of this organization is to promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” AIEMU faculty adviser Nitya Singh said. “This implies the organization aims to ensure human beings across the world have the right to life and the right to lead a safe, secure and free life. We hope to bring together students across the university and enable them to debate, discuss and create awareness of some of the major cases of human rights abuses across the world. The AIEMU also initiates petition signing programs to enable EMU students to signify their involvement in issues of global importance.”
Amnesty International has been working to end human rights abuses across the world since the organization’s formation in 1961.
“Acts such as genocide, torture of political prisoners and intimidation of citizens by their own government are all activities the organization tries to prevent,” Singh said. “Amnesty International has members and activists in more than 150 countries and is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.”
Even with the issues the organization faces, AIEMU hopes to branch out to other student
organizations on campus, community- or volunteer-oriented, including EMU’s impressive Model United Nations Club.
“The Model UN Club provides an excellent platform for students to participate in national and international conferences, enabling them to understand the art of diplomacy,” Singh said. “Both these international organization have a global vision of trying to promote a safer and more peaceful world, where human rights are valued by all nation states.”
With new leadership and a new board of members, the four-year-old student organization is getting back into the swing of things.
“In the past, we’ve held many events, but recently there’s been a gap of activity due to graduating members so we’re starting up again,” Mansaray said. “They’ve protested on-campus before and have had petition signings, both against war, local human rights violations and other topics as well.”
Singh said, “The zeal with which the current leadership of AIEMU is working is extremely encouraging. It shows that students at EMU are actively aware of global issues and have the confidence in their ability to not only take them on, but also promote ideas and strategies to resolve them.”
For Mansaray, she hopes AIEMU will help inform EMU’s campus on issues going on in the world, lowering the ignorance and lack of awareness of such topics.
“We deal with a lot of issues in the Middle East. I think Amnesty International sways to what the media is paying attention to, like with what’s been going on with Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Iraq,” Mansaray said. “They’ve been popular since the 1990s and since it’s already in the headlines it helps to approach things that way, like, ‘since we’re already talking about Osama bin Laden so let’s talk about that culture and society.’”
However, Amnesty International doesn’t just focus on the social and environmental problems of undeveloped countries. Such human rights issues are globally experienced regardless of economic status.
“We don’t just deal with second and third-world countries; it goes from first-world countries to the United States to gay marriage to Australian unemployment to women in the Middle East not being able to give birth in hospitals to Africa,” Mansaray said. “Every country has human rights issues and we believe there is a greater good out there for everyone.”
AIEMU has weekly meetings from 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Political Science Department Lounge in Pray-Harrold. AIEMU will be holding a petition signing event from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday in the EMU Student Center; one petition in particular is requesting that Ecuador shut down “anti-gay” clinics that are responsible for torture and abuse of the LGBT community.