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Is the pen mightier than the sword?

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 16/05) - Watching television, going shopping or having a drink with friends at the pub are all perfectly decent ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

But for the ladies gathered at Diane Peckford's apartment Dec. 10, there was more than just good coffee and socializing going on.

Peckford and her letter writing crew were taking part in Amnesty International's global "Write for Rights" write-a-thon; their mission to pen 30 letters to government leaders of their choosing outlining their displeasure at human rights violations around the world.

"I think my job is to make people aware and every letter counts," said Peckford , who was into her third message. The letter was on behalf of a Congolese rape and murder victim whose government, according to Amnesty International, has not done a satisfactory investigation.

Having experienced for herself the power of the pen when it comes to affecting change, Peckford is devoted to the cause.

"My roommate at a World Social Forum I attended in India actually met a lady who was freed because of an Amnesty International letter-writing campaign," she said.

Amnesty International is a worldwide organization which campaigns for internationally recognized human rights, enshrined in the International Declaration of Human Rights.

When people think of countries notorious for violating human rights, dictatorships in Africa, the Middle East and Asia frequently come to mind. But for this group of writers, even Canada is not immune.

Several ladies were writing Indian and Northern Affairs minister Andy Scott to express their dissatisfaction at how little seems to be done for missing aboriginal women. Aboriginal child welfare was another hot-button topic other writers were addressing.

"People need to stand up and have a voice, otherwise nothing gets done," said Debbie Samson.

"And once you become aware you feel the need to play a part in helping."

The goal of this group Saturday was to come up with 30 letters. Last year, Canadians wrote 18,000 letters for the Amnesty International cause.