Amnesty International club hosted its annual Human Rights Week from Jan. 8-11 with a series of presentations from various human rights activists and organizations on major current issues, ranging from immigration to gender studies.
Speakers included Courtney Glazer-Mapfumo and Erika Bertelsen from the University of California, Irvine law clinic speaking about domestic violence, local activist Jessica Riestra presenting on human trafficking and homelessness and Carlos Perea and Roberto Herrera of Resilience Orange County on immigrants’ rights.
“Guest speakers that are invited to Human Rights Week offer a perspective on issues other than the basic ‘Immigration 101’ lesson, especially crucial today when tensions about these topics are high,” Amnesty International club president senior Estelle Lee said.
Riestra’s presentation on human trafficking underscored the different kinds of trafficking and how people in desperate living situations are exploited through the human black market. The presentations were enhanced through personal stories, statistics and audience interaction that confronted the students with uncomfortable truths and humanized the victims behind the conflicts.
“I didn’t realize how commonplace human trafficking was,” sophomore Jenny Han said. “The presentation definitely brought this subject to light so that we could see the telltale signs of a victim of trafficking.”
On the last day, Lee, queer theory professor Priya Shah, advocate Liz Sanchez and recent Northwood alumna Amanda Miskell were featured on a queer panel discussing sexual and gender identity. Panelists opened the floor for questions and comments from the audience and highlighted the fluidity of sexuality.
“The panel really emphasized the need for our society to recognize that one’s gender isn’t limited to whatever is printed on a birth certificate,” sophomore Harin Lee said. “I really enjoyed the presentation and think they cleared misconceptions of what being queer meant.”
In addition to informing and educating, the speakers also provided information regarding ways that students can combat the injustices that they talked about, even without considerable political influence.
“We are often sheltered and aren’t always sensitive to these issues,” senior Ashlie Powers said. “It would be valuable to have more events like Human Rights Week in the future that enable the student body to be involved in activism.”