It's not every day you bring together 15,000 refugees to advocate for peace. So, when the opportunity arises, you must have a unified message in order to amplify your impact and create change.
On Monday, we organized an advocacy day for Karen refugees from Burma. Their message was not only about the safety and security of their families back home, it was about the safety and security of all persecuted people within Burma. That is powerful.
If you have studied Burmese history, you may know that it is common for ethnic groups to be pitted against one another. Having no authority over what is taught in their schools, children are forced to learn whatever the government tells them to and they have little access to free press or alternative news sources.
Knowing this, it is quite impressive that an ethnic group that has faced persecution for decades, stands united with all religious and ethnic minorities: including the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya. Their message for peace extends far beyond their immediate concern for family members, as they have unified and advocate for peace for all people who live in Burma.
That is powerful.
Our role was to facilitate press, connect the leadership team with the high-level leaders who can advocate that the US government change policy, and bring human rights leaders to speak at the event. Former Congressmen and Human Rights Champions Frank Wolf and Tony Hall spoke to the crowd of 15,000 at the US Capitol, calling on the government to reimpose sanctions and formally take steps to launch an investigation into genocide.
These actions will make a difference. As the Karen come back to Washington every year and share their stories of violence and persecution, they are unifying their message and reaching the changemakers who can implement US policy.
Everyone who traveled to Washington on Monday is to be applauded for their perseverance and dedication to all minorities within Burma. Together, their unified voice will make a difference for all.
Photos by Paul Kim Photography.
Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog.