Write for Rights 2021: your words are changing lives


25 July 2022

In 2021, the world’s largest human rights event Write for Rights (W4R) turned 20 years old.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a record-breaking 17,222 actions were taken to defend human rights and challenge the injustice facing ten individuals and groups across the globe.

Every year, Amnesty supporters write letters, send solidarity cards, and sign petitions calling for justice for those whose human rights are under attack. Real positive change results from those actions: people at risk are protected, people wrongfully imprisoned are released, those who remain in prison are treated more humanely, and human rights abusers are brought to justice for their crimes.

As part of last year’s W4R campaign, Amnesty supporters in Aotearoa New Zealand organised letter-writing events across the motu. Seven months on, we're thrilled to see that those actions have had positive impacts around the world. Your W4R 2021 efforts brought hope, comfort, and major breakthroughs for the people whose suffering we’re working to end.


Sphere NGO defending rights in Ukraine

Anna and Vira bravely stand up for women and LGBTQIA+ people in Ukraine. But their organisation, Sphere NGO, has been subject to numerous violent attacks by groups determined to intimidate them into silence. No one should be attacked for speaking up for their rights and the rights of others.

In October 2021, Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand joined forces with colleagues in Asia and the Pacific to show solidarity to Sphere and their community. As part of W4R 2021, Amnesty supporters in Aotearoa called on Ukraine to bring Sphere’s attackers to justice.

"After we travelled to Amnesty International offices in different countries and got all this support, we felt so charged and inspired that we launched an advocacy and a large media campaign."
Anna Sharyhina

“Before Write for Rights, we felt quite burned out, not only my colleagues and I, but I would say this was true for the whole community,” says Anna.

“After we travelled to Amnesty International offices in different countries and got all this support, we felt so charged and inspired that we launched an advocacy and a large media campaign. With all the plans and ideas we had, it makes it even more painful to realise that the war has broken out.”

Anna has stayed in her war-torn city Kharkiv because she feels it is her duty to help people in these difficult times. Their community centre has now been shut down, but the organisation keeps working. Anna and her colleagues provide humanitarian aid and financial support to LGBTQIA+ community members that stayed in the city and to those who have escaped.

Take action to protect civilians in Ukraine by sending a message to the Russian Minister of Defence and the Russian Ambassador in New Zealand.


Investigative journalist Zhang Zhan in China

Zhang is a Chinese citizen journalist who has been sentenced to four years in prison for courageously reporting on COVID-19. The Chinese government is stifling freedom of expression in its attempt to gain economic and political dominance. She has been imprisoned and tortured in Shanghai.

During W4R 2021, Zhang Zhan’s health was in critical condition after being on hunger strike in protest of her unjust incarceration. It is still unclear as to whether Zhang has access to adequate medical care.

In the darkness of her suffering, members of Zhang Zhan’s Concern Group and legal team found comfort in the actions taken by Amnesty supporters in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"Thank you all for helping her through the most life-threatening part of her life. The support and solidarity from all over the world, the belief in justice, the pursuit of truth, [all] make this winter warm. Like Zhang Zhan, we are full of hope."


Student protestor Rung in Thailand

University student Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul has become a leading voice in Thailand’s democracy movement. She bravely took part in protests for social and political change throughout 2020. In March 2021, the authorities jailed her for 60 days. She went on hunger strike for 38 days and was eventually released, but she still faces dozens of charges against her and the threat of life imprisonment.

The W4R spotlight on Rung may have contributed to her release on bail in January 2022. The campaign has given her hope to continue fighting for freedom and democracy.

"The number of the letters that I have received was beyond any of my expectations. For me, this is a successful campaign, just to see each individual letter sent to me, it makes me so happy that they know what is happening in Thailand, and what I am facing."

Amnesty will continue working to release those unfairly detained and charged for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Stand with Rung and call for all charges against her to be dropped immediately.


Stand with humanity

We run Write for Rights every year because we know it makes a difference – real change happens because of mahi like this. Your words have freed people from human rights abuses and brought life-changing hope to dire situations around the world.

Learn more about Write for Rights and join us again this year as we aim to top our 2021 record of actions – the biggest ever for Aotearoa New Zealand!

Write a letter, change a life – it might even change yours.