This little light: 34 years as an Amnesty member
In the far reaches of New Zealand, on the Southeast coast of the country, there is a woman with immeasurable power. A woman who, with the help of others, has probably freed hundreds of activists in desperate situations, fearlessly facing dictators and warlords, and calling for the respect of human dignity. She’s worked to liberate some of the greatest humanitarians of our time and has, in many ways, influenced the future of so many.
She would probably balk at being described in such hyperbolic terms, but to me she is a true super hero for human rights.
This woman is not a dignitary nor is she an heiress or a well known actress. This liberator of the world’s most vulnerable is 99 year old Dawn Ibbotson from Dunedin. Armed with a pen and an incredible creative ability, Dawn has raised over $60,000 for charity and has, over the years, written on behalf of hundreds of Prisoners of Conscience. Next month, we will celebrate her 100th birthday.
As a member of Amnesty International for 34 years, Dawn, alongside her co-members of the Dunedin Women’s Presbyterian group, have penned some of the most beautiful handwritten notes in support of hundreds of detained activists. She has worked fearlessly to fight for Prisoners of Conscience, lobbying local MP’s and writing letters. Today, at nearly 100, she is unstoppable.
And her passion for human rights remains unwavering; when asked what drives her, Dawn answers simply, “We have so much be thankful for in this country of ours, that we must spend time caring for other people and doing something to make their lives better.”
Among supporters of Amnesty International, you will often hear reference to an old Chinese Proverb that states “It is better to shine a light than to curse the darkness”. The proverb reflects Peter Benenson’s hope that his work founding Amnesty International would shine a light in the darkest of places where human rights abuses go unpunished. It is people like Dawn, I feel, who stand out as the epitome of that very ideal at the core of our organisation. Despite newscasts, cynics, and warzones that push to convince the world that the battle for human rights has been lost, Dawn has remained that light in the dark.