- Name: Susana C. Gaspar
- Age: 32
- Country of origin: Portugal
Occupation/Field of Study (if it applies): PhD fellow Artistic Studies – Art and Mediations / Professor / Theater Artist & activist
Organization/Institution: Universidade Nova de Lisboa – FCSH | IPL – Escola Superior de Educação / Chão de Oliva / Amnistia Internacional Portugal
Organization’s social networks: @susanacgaspar | @chaodeoliva | @amnistiapt
Photos of you and your project:
- did you become interested in working, volunteering or being an activist in the area of Human Rights?
At a young age I was already curious about what was going on in the world and was willing to know more about other countries. I started to do my own readings when I was 16 and started writing to the school newspaper. When I entered the university, it was easier to participate in initiatives, meetings, conferences and so on… which was also an important step. But I was 21/22 when I joined a local group from Amnesty International Portugal and started to be a more active member and volunteer for human rights. From that moment forward, I didn’t stop. I became coordinator from that local group and in 2015 I was elected as Chair of the Board in Amnesty International Portugal, a position I held until 2017.
- What kind of activities do you perform in the organization you work for?
I started as an activist doing Human Rights Education work (sessions in schools), participating in petitions, organizing events (from a Film Festival to artistic events). When I was on the Board, my work was mainly focused on strategy and leadership. Currently, since I am focused on my Research on Art and Human Rights, I am collaborating with Amnesty International Portugal as a volunteer in a project called Arts for Amnesty – Arts for Human Rights. Professionally, I keep associating my artistic work to human rights activism whenever I can, and I still work as a non-formal educator in the Human Rights Education field.
- There are many different NGOs and institutions working on Human Rights. What made you choose specifically this field and project?
Amnesty International is the biggest non-governmental organization defending Human Rights and it relies on its members to multiply its impact. It has a presence in more than 150 countries and gathers millions of volunteers worldwide. I also sign petitions for other NGOs with the same and/or different causes, but Amnesty makes it possible for any person to engage more deeply with Human Rights projects.
- Do you remember how you started? How did your colleagues treat you?
- And how was your first contact with the people you were working with (refugees, endangered women, children, minorities, etc.? What surprised you the most?
- What’s your cause? What factors motivate you to continue fighting for it?
My cause is Human Rights – I know it’s huge but that’s it. If there is any person or collective, within my country or outside, which still doesn’t have access to their fundamental Human Rights, I will do what I can to help improve their situation. Those actions can have different forms… signing a petition, sharing the news, organizing events, making artistic projects about it, taking it to the streets, making it visible.
- If you had to choose one thing that you have learned from your work in the field, what would it be?
We can never take Human Rights for granted. Our situation can change from one moment to another. On the other side, we are not always on the side of the majority – hate speech and discrimination is still very real – but we must never forget that we are not alone in the cause, and it’s worth fighting for everyones’ rights.
- How did your volunteering/activism change you?
I wouldn’t say it changed me. I would rather say it helped shape my values and made me stronger.
- To what extent do you think that human rights activism has made you aware of the influence that your culture/roots have on your behavior?
I was always aware of my culture and roots and how it influences my behavior. It didn’t come from my activism. But for sure it helps to have more empathy and understanding on how we have different backgrounds and may perceive things differently. We shouldn’t impose our vision but be willing to listen to others first. The place and time where we are born can have a great influence in our personal path and opportunities.
- What do you think are the biggest challenges we face in the area of Human Rights?
This is a hard one. It depends on the place where I am looking. Human Rights are important values worldwide but there aren’t enough mechanisms to make it work in all the regions in the world. There is still a long walk from theory to practice. War and armed conflicts still have a severe impact in human rights, and the increase of refugees reflects that. I can also share that, for me, one of the biggest challenges is the division we are seeing in our world: One Vs. Another; We Vs. Others… There is too much hate and discrimination happening around the world. We definitely need to build on a culture of empathy and respect, in order to contribute to the plenitude of human rights, from person-to-person, people-to-people, government-to-government.
- What would you say to someone who is considering whether or not to volunteer?
Do you feel the fire in your belly when you hear about injustices? Are you willing to do more to fight for justice? If you answered yes to both, don’t wait much longer. The world needs more Human Rights Defenders.
- Define, in one word, how does volunteering or working in the area of Human Rights make you feel.
Interviewed by Millena Ferraz