20 Years of Witnessing
Posted on June 1, 2012 by Yvette Alberdingk Thijm
It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since WITNESS was born in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. It was during that moment in 1992 when our founders realized the undeniable power of video. Since then, WITNESS made it its mission to enable people to use video as a powerful tool in human rights advocacy and we are proud to have trained over 3,000 human rights activists and collaborated with over 300 groups in more than 80 countries. We’re proud of two decades of changing laws and policies and creating accountability for abuse around the world, one video at a time.
Today we celebrate WITNESS’ 20th anniversary. This is a victory for the many people and organizations who have supported us through the years, including founders Peter Gabriel, Human Rights First and The Reebok Foundation for Human Rights; our passionate and dedicated staff, past and present; our board members; every single supporter, large and small; and most of all the people who have shared their stories in the belief that it will make a difference.
Because while many things about the world have changed over the past 20 years – our deep belief in the power of a personal story to challenge injustice and wrongdoing – has not.
Our new video (generously produced by the team at Stalkr) highlights the journey that WITNESS has embarked on in exposing the truth, one video at a time:
WITNESS started with a mission to give cameras to the world. Over time, we have evolved to provide training on filming and storytelling to our partners to ensure their videos would have impact in defending human rights. Now that we live in a “cameras everywhere” world, our dream has expanded: the safe and effective use of video by the millions of citizens around the world who are documenting and sharing their stories with the world.
Whether it is a mobile phone equipped protester in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or a displaced mother fleeing an advancing army in Eastern Burma who is providing testimony on camera, it is the courage of individuals like these, who share their stories through video, that continues to inspire us. And it is our mission to make sure that their courageous stories make a difference.
Once our eyes have been opened, we are compelled to act and to change behaviors, perceptions and laws. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), January, a former child soldier and survivor of abuse spoke out against warlords like Thomas Lubanga. With the help of that undeniable video evidence, the International Criminal Court pronounced Thomas Lubanga guilty of war crimes committed in the DRC. Near the U.S.-Mexico border, where more than 450 women have been murdered, the Cervantes family shared the loss of their own daughter Neyra on video. As a result, Mexico’s Attorney General and Minister of Interior have publicly committed to looking into the cases of Neyra and other women.
None of this would be possible without support from individuals like you, who believe in our mission. WITNESS is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a transformative moment in history to forever change the human rights landscape and foster a “video for change” movement to promote and protect human rights globally.
Join us in celebrating human rights change today by sharing our new video with your friends, families, and co-workers. Help us secure an even bigger future where many more stories can be shared, more lives can be changed, and greater impacts can be had.
Thank you! And here’s to the next 20 years.
P.S. Please consider donating to our special $20,000 in 20 Days fundraising event starting today. With your contribution, you will touch the lives of countless people who want to use video to fight injustice. Thanks again.