What does a recent graduate in communications and another studying political, economic and social sciences have in common? Sara Soutphommasane and Mary Tran have both made a difference by volunteering with one of the largest non-government organisation’s in the World, Amnesty International. The non-for-profit has more than 4 million members Worldwide. It was responsible for persuading the Australian Federal Government to provide $3.3 million to the Afghan Women’s Network that helped fight women’s rights in Afghanistan and currently fighting for the refugees being sent to Cambodia.
“Amnesty is renowned for defending human rights, and their impartiality reinforces their legitimacy. Their values resonated with me the most, particularly the activism aspect of championing human rights,” said Sara.
Sara is battling out in her final year at Sydney University and was offered to be an Community Organising Intern with Amnesty International. She helped the growth and development of NSW’s Action Groups with 150 of these groups Australia wide. These groups venture out into their local communities to campaign and raise awareness about human rights. One of her most fondest moments was when she successfully set up the first NSW Crisis Network.
“The Crisis Network aims to effectively respond to crises as they arise and raise greater awareness of urgent actions taking place globally,” said Sara.
Blogger, filmmaker and action group advocate Mary Tran is in the midst of her master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of NSW. She’s currently involved through her local Amnesty Action Group and was the director of a campaign video that was produced for Refugee Week in June this year.
“The exposure that the video received was incredible. Many of the viewers said it changed their impressions of asylum seekers and opened their eyes to the human rights issues happening right under our noses,” said Mary.
A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commision (AHRC) says there are still sensitive issues that Australia needs to challenge such as marriage equality, violence against women and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Activists like Sara and Mary have made a difference by advocating and building awareness on the importance of human rights.
“I think Amnesty is fantastic at what they do, they are a powerful non government organisation with a strong voice and support base. They are really advocating for change and striving for equity,” said Mary.
Mary and Sara say they have been humbled by their recent involvement with Amnesty International. It has put local and World issues into their sights and agree they will still be fighting human rights for years to come.
“Without a doubt, I see myself working within the NGO sector for many years ahead at the very least. There is always a drive, a goal, an objective, to what I do and I foresee that it will be a long career because there are plenty of issues around the world. Also, with a realist touch, attaining justice and equality does not happen overnight,” said Mary.