We’re an organization based on the concept of partnership. In fact, last Thursday we held our annual gala fundraiser in New York City and its theme was “Co-Lab: Celebrating 20 Years of Collaborative Activism.”
When I heard that this year’s Blog Action Day was dedicated to the theme “The Power of We” I knew it would be easy for us to participate.
Blog Action Day started seven years ago as a way to get bloggers across the world to focus on a particular theme “for good,” regardless of their usual content or programming. Past themes have included food sustainability, access to clean water, and climate change among others.
In our contribution, we’ll share some examples of how collaboration works in human rights and video activism.
We’ve partnered with over 300 human rights groups in over 86 countries to train activists how to use video strategically for advocacy. Here are two recent examples of how we see our work with others have real world impact.
In the United States: My colleague Kelly Matheson reports that her intern, Michael Goldin, sent his 9-year old sister TRUST Colorado. She showed the film to her Eco-Club. After watching, the group loved it so much, the school decided to show it at an all school assembly. While this is one small act among many in the TRUST Campaign, it illustrates what is at the heart of our work summarized so well by 12-year old youth plaintiff, Xuihtezcatl Martinz, “It’s like kids giving the hope to other kids. So that we can someday soon have enforceable Climate Recovery Plans and a healthy atmosphere.”
In Mexico: My colleague Priscila Neri who leads our work in Latin America on forced evictions recently reported on a major win for activists in Mexico who are fighting the construction of a dam which would forcibly evict 25,000 community members and affect another 75,000.
She commented, “Although a change in policy with regard to human rights issues can take a long time – as evidenced by the nearly 10 years of advocacy by the community in Guerrero state – it is worth every minute. In sharing their story in myriad ways, including through video and in-person meetings with government officials, the community has made their voice heard and are seeing positive results.”
Technology For Good
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’re aware that we’re working on the Secure Smart Cam project- developing some very cool mobile applications including ObscuraCam aimed at ensuring capturing images with a cell phone is both safer for the image-taker and the person in the images; and InformaCam which is designed to save critical meta data such as location, date, and in some cases a description of what the images show so that they can later be verified and possibly used for evidence in human rights cases.
We’ve come across the need for both these apps in our work, especially over the past few years, but don’t have the capacity to create this kind of app ourselves. So we turned to the Guardian Project. And as Bryan Nunez, our technology manager explains, “The folks at the Guardian Project have been amazing to work with. It’s rare to get coders who possess the trifecta combination of technical mastery, deep understanding of the risks faced by human rights defenders, and excellent social skills.”
Support is Crucial
As a nonprofit WITNESS relies on supporters to help achieve our mission. Those might be people or foundations who donate money, volunteers who help us staff public events, or interns who devote hours to learning new skills and who contribute to the implementation and outreach of our programs. Lizzie Gillett, one of our core fundraisers, calls these supporters “leaders of change.”
Lizzie explains, “It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to power an organization. We are blessed to have a committed, enthusiastic and inspirational community of people and foundations who support our work year after year.”