Even as many schools wrap up for the school year (or have already wrapped up), it isn’t too late to start thinking about issues to focus on as an Amnesty International college chapter. Of course, you don’t have to spend the entire summer planning, but it you want to waste too much time at the beginning of the year getting started and thinking about what to do, then this article is for you. Here are a few issues you can focus on as a chapter come August or September. In the meantime, as your review these issues, you can keep the gears turning by going over event ideas or doing research on the issues that interest you.
If the death penalty is still the law in your state, then this would be a good issue to focus on this coming school year. It’s an issue that the organization has been prioritizing for a while, so there are plenty of resources to help you get started. Also, some states with the death penalty are actively executing people, so part of your advocacy could be reducing the sentence to life in prison. Abolishing the death penalty isn’t about getting criminals off or not being tough on crime. It’s about making sure that we’re not executing innocent people, or mentally impaired people, or people who were convicted of the crime before the age of 18. It’s about the economic impact and the inconsistency of justice. All of these things merit giving capital punishment a second look.
Women’s rights covers a variety of topics: gender-based violence, maternal mortality, education, sex slavery etc. The great thing about making women’s rights the emphasis for your college chapter is that there are many directions you can take it. Women’s rights would also include a lot of other human rights issues, such as LGBT rights, children’s rights, and poverty. There’s something for everyone here, while being something that many people can get behind and that many would want to learn more about.
If this an issue that you think your chapter would be interested in, or that you would love to carry out next semester, then consider partnering with the Women’s Studies program or the feminist group on campus (if you have both or either of them). Such partnerships could bring more people to your events and more resources to amplify your message.
Security and Human Rights
This is another domestic issue, but security and human rights covers Guantanamo Bay, illegal and indefinite detention and fair trials. Security and human rights is a very timely issue, and is a good one to focus on if you or your chapter would focus on human rights in the United States or human rights having to do with war.
Prisoners and People at Risk
This issue is the bread and butter of Amnesty International, and is a good one to include as part of the agenda. Prisoners and people at risk involves anyone imprisoned solely for expressing their human rights (freedom of speech, religion, assembly etc.) and/or those who are defending human rights activists (lawyers, non-profit leaders, political leaders etc.). Actions for prisoners and people at risk are on a case by case basis, meaning that who you’re advocating for could change regularly, which is why this is a good issue to include as just part of the agenda. Spend a meeting writing letters on behalf of a prisoner, or collect signatures for a petition on another. Sounds simply, but for this issue that’s typically what Amnesty International wants its members to do.