Checkpoint Changemakers: what a weekend!

Checkpoint Changemakers: what a weekend!

This Friday was a real ‘friyay’ for us. It was the start of Checkpoint Changemakers in Tilburg, the youth weekend of Amnesty the Netherlands and Amnesty Flanders to which we have looked forward to for a long time. From all over Belgium and the Netherlands students gathered to learn more about activism within Amnesty International with the goal to organize an action to stand up for human rights. Most weekends are meant to rest but this one wasn’t, it was time get to work!

The Belgians and Dutch weren’t the only participating nationalities. We also had two activists visiting from Ukraine and Hungary. Mihály ‘Mex’ Droppa from Hungary stands up for LGBTIQ- and refugee rights while the Hungarian government keeps fabricating laws to make it more and more difficult to be a human rights activist. This makes Mex’ work difficult and sometimes even dangerous.
Vitalina Koval is an LGBTIQ-activist and women’s rights defender from Ukraine. Threats and attacks during protests makes her work difficult and dangerous. Amnesty supports Vitalina and Mex in their work. The worldwide recognition of their work enables them to continue to defend human rights.

This action weekend started with some ice breakers to get to know each other. Learning all the names of the attendees was a challenge with over 40 people. The bingo game we played to get to know each other by the color of our eyes, family members, etc. was helpful and a lot of fun. After the bingo game and pizza dinner it was time for us to get to know all of the human rights we are going to fight for. It was a fun first night with lots of new impressions.

Saturday started with a hearty breakfast to awaken our inner activists. Every participant enrolled in several workshops which can be useful for organizing a protest. First, we needed some background: basic info on how to take action for Amnesty. So, in two of the workshops we learned about the history, successes and general information of Amnesty. One of the workshops I followed was on how to organize a protest and why we protest. Others were about communication, human rights defenders and how to use social media. After all the workshops from which we have learned a lot we got divided into several groups to plan the protest for Sunday. The action group came up with the idea to draw attention to the fact that human rights in Europe aren’t always respected. Contrary to what people may think, this is happening close by. So we all need to wake up and stand up for our rights. Therefore, the name of the protest was called #WAKKER (wake up). Because Vitalina and Mex were also participating, we used their stories to get people’s attention. We asked people that passed by to sign the petition in which we ask the police to protect Vitalina. After the first plans were worked out we had a delicious meal. Some of us continued to work on the action for Sunday and others went out for a drink.

Sunday morning started early with checking out of the lovely hostel Roots where we stayed this weekend. With a clear mind we started to finalize the protest. Signs and buttons were made, newspapers were called and social media channels were being updated. Around 12 o’clock we got in formation and walked to the city center. Some of us had to lay on the square like we were still asleep, others walked around with signs and others made people sign the petition. Vitalina and Mex were with us as well and talked to people when they had any questions. It was impressive to see how much people passed by and stood still for a second to watch us protest. Lots of people signed the petition. It really felt like we were defending our human rights. It was a real success!

After the action we went back to the hostel for the evaluation of the weekend. We shared our last thoughts about this weekend and thanked everyone for organizing this special experience. We will keep these memories in mind and keep on fighting for our rights!

Written by: ‘Changemaker’ Izy Dekker