Name: Maria do Céu Pires
Country of Origin:Portugal
Occupation/Field of Study (if it applies): Teacher
Organization/Institution: Amnesty Internacional
Organization’s social networks: https://www.facebook.com/amnistiaestremoz / Amnistia Internacional Portugal
Photos of you and your Project:
- When did you become interested in working, volunteering or being an activist in the area of Human Rights?
Since the mid-1980s of the 20th century.
What kind of activities do you perform in the organization you work for?
Organization of public events, collection of signatures, participation in petitions, disclosure of cases of violation of Human Rights, actions for Education for Human Rights. I also coordinate work with a local group and define strategies at the national level.
There are many different NGOs and institutions working on Human Rights. What made you choose specifically this field and project?
Because it seems very credible and because I totally identify with the vision, mission and working methods of this organization.
Do you remember how you started? How did your colleagues treat you?
I started as a member and then created, with a small group of people, a local group in Estremoz. All of us in the group relate to each other on the basis of respect and cordiality.
And how was your first contact with the people you were working with (refugees, endangered women, children, minorities, etc.? What surprised you the most?
My contact with these people, from groups that are discriminated against, already existed before working in this organization. What always surprises me is the kindness of people and their ability to resist adversity. Sometimes there are very difficult situations and it causes me a lot of suffering
What’s your cause? What factors motivate you to continue fighting for it?
My cause is that of justice and equality. I keep fighting for this because it is what I have done all my life, it is what gives meaning to my existence. We are in the world to make it a little better.
If you had to choose one thing that you have learned from your work in the field, what would it be?
I learned a lot: to be stronger, more tolerant and understanding with different human realities. I learned that together, by cooperating, human beings can do fantastic things. I think, in essence, I learned to be a better person.
How did your volunteering/activism change you?
To be a better human.
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?
This awareness, I always had. Cultural / historical aspects are important, but when we are human rights activists we have to be aware of universality, despite differences in contexts.
What do you think are the biggest challenges we face in the area of Human Rights? “There are many challenges today, first of all, everything that will happen after covid-19 in terms of HD restrictions (freedom, privacy, labor rights, housing and health), also the hate speech and populisms to connect are a huge challenge due to the influence that social networks have on people. And, related to all this, the challenge of environmental rights and the possibility of saving the planet.
What would you say to someone who is considering whether or not to volunteer?
I would say that it is very worthwhile, for personal reasons, for individual development and training and also for others. We can never forget that without others, we are nothing. It is very gratifying to feel that we can change something in people’s lives.”
Define, in one word, how does volunteering or working in the area of Human Rights make you feel.
Interviewed by Millena Ferraz