By Todd Schwarz, New York Area Coordinator for Amnesty International USA
Unexpected circumstances can lead to opportunities for impact — prompting action from activists like you! One such opportunity gave Amnesty’s Group 11 the chance to publicize the case of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez on July 8. ESPN Deportes host Melba Falu talked about the case with group member Jeremy Barth and AIUSA’s Advocacy Director for the Americas, Marselha Gonçalves Margerin.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez is a Salvadoran woman who suffered a stillbirth in 2007. She received a 30-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide under the country’s draconian abortion laws. Under the leadership of Martha Spital and Sandra Robishaw, Group 11 dedicated themselves to working Teodora’s case after Write for Rights in 2015.
The unexpected circumstance that lead to the interview wasn’t just luck — work and preparation were important. A recent group contact and staffer at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater invited us to table at their Women of the World festival this May. Group members got signatures and talked with scores of interesting attendees. Member Lara Price connected with Melba Falu, a local Spanish-language radio personality interested in human rights. Falu invited Amnesty on her show to tell Teodora’s story and discuss abortion policy in El Salvador. Broadcast on the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes sports network, a new, wider audience heard Teodora’s story.
Working with Larry Ladutke, the Chair of AIUSA’s Central America Country Coordination Group, we arranged for Ms. Gonçalves and Jeremy to offer both the big picture and Local Group perspectives on this case. The tag-team approach ensured that listeners were introduced to Amnesty’s story and work, as along with what ordinary people can do for human rights in their community. You can listen to the interview here.
While unexpected circumstance led to opportunity, the interview is an opportunity for impact. You can help by being heard, taking action yourself, downloading Group 11’s action packet. With this interview, we can tell Salvadoran officials that people are learning about this case and El Salvador’s abortion laws, and recognize the unfairness and violation of rights that they represent.
In addition to the hope for impact, Group 11’s efforts remind us of important lessons in organizing. First, though Jeremy — our strongest Spanish speaker — was not deeply involved in this case, he prepared well for the interview. “In the course of the interview, I had to explain a bit about the history of El Salvador’s abortion law as well as the particulars of Teodora’s case,” he told me. “The better you prep, the more confident you’ll be, live.” Second, Falu was drawn to our table through her connection to El Salvador. Luck doesn’t hurt, but visibility and clarity with our work and identity creates some of the opportunities we seek — you never know who you’ll meet unless you’re out there to meet them!
Please take action with us today!