I am working with World Without Genocide, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about current situations of mass violence and human rights offenses, and how to take action against them. I have been in a unique position to see change occur – inspired by thought-provoking programming and “hands-on” events.
Early this spring, World Without Genocide implemented the first Red Hand Day event at William Mitchell College of Law. Currently, there are more than 300,000 child soldiers involved in at least 30 conflicts around the world. Red Hand Day commemorates the UN’s ban on the use of child soldiers and encourages people to help protect children from this horrific practice. The program is simple but striking. People are asked to coat their hands in red paint and then apply them to paper. The red hand dramatically signifies ‘stop’ while it demonstrates support for banning the use of child soldiers. The handprints are collected and sent to members of the UN to as a reminder that people who employ children as soldiers must be held accountable.
At Mitchell, we set up tables in the middle of campus and over a hundred students and staff stopped by to make handprints – but more importantly, to learn about this human rights abuse. In conjunction, World Without Genocide hosted a lecture on child soldiers in global conflicts. Movingly, all of the attendees at the lecture came forward to create handprints, including a little boy who was there with his parents. Since 2002, 350,000 red handprints have been collected worldwide as part of this initiative.
Awareness is an important first step. But, the perpetrators of child soldiery must be brought to justice to bring the practice to an end. As part of my work, I am focusing on the International Criminal Court and its response to crimes like this around the world. Currently, the ICC is prosecuting Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the leader of a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for enlisting and conscripting children to be used as armed soldiers in an uprising against the government of that country.
By raising awareness of the problems of child soldiers, and how the ICC can help end the impunity, World is helping people in Minnesota find a voice to demand change. Every hand (print) can make a difference!
World Without Genocide promotes the Red Hand Program widely. For more information on how to set up a program at your location, visit www.redhandday.org. For more information on World Without Genocide, as well as ways to get involved, please go to www.worldwithoutgenocide.org.
Sarah Gibson is currently a rising 2L at William Mitchell College of Law (Class of 2013). She is from Rochester, Minnesota and attended Macalester College (Class of 2007) in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she double-majored in History and International Studies. Between college and law school, she was working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.