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Human Rights Defenders Poetry Challenge


What is this challenge about?

An entire year has passed since the kick-off of the Protection Intenational’s #StayWithDefenders campaign, and we would like to call attention to all those human rights defenders who steadfastly continue their work despite the fact that COVID-19 rages on.

To honour the human rights defenders that have suffered, succeeded, fought and fallen, Protection International, and the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights are launching a poetry challenge for all creatives, activists and advocates for human rights. This past year has been a difficult one, and during these times of mourning and collective struggle we would like to encourage the human rights community to take the time to express themselves.

Acknowledging the power of emotion and its relationship with protection, as well as the healing capabilities of art, this is an opportunity to dig down and reflect on what we’ve gone through as a global, interconnected society—looking at where we are now, and where we would like to go from here.

Tell us about the human rights issues that are most important to you, specifically in reference to the right to defend human rights. Tell us your stories from this past year. Tell us which human rights you continue to advocate for and why. Tell us your vision for a future in which human rights are respected and protected. It can be personal, or it can be impersonal. It can take shape as a 3-minute slam poetry video or it can be a written haiku. We encourage creativity, and we are accepting poems in video, audio or written form.

This is a free contest, with no entry free. Human rights activists are strongly encouraged to submit their work and all voices are welcome—regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, migration status, ethnic identity, or any other category. You do not need to have any prior experience with poetry to participate. All levels, including beginners, are welcome.

The top three contest winners will:

• receive a prize of 200 Euros for first place, 100 Euros for second place and 50 Euros for third place;

• receive a hand-crafted #StayWithDefenders trophy;

• be invited to participate in a live, virtual poetry reading to showcase their work to key international stakeholders;

• have their poems featured on the Protection International’s website and social media accounts, as well as any additional, relevant organisational reports related to the right to defend human rights; and

• receive free registration for Protection International’s new e-learning course “Security and Protection Management for Human Rights Defenders and Social Organisations”.

In addition, the top 5 poems in each language will be published in a poetry booklet.

How can I participate?

Please submit your pieces via the online form by 30 November 2021. Submissions must include:

• Author’s name

• Email address

• Brief biography (3-5 sentences)

• Phone number

• Permission to publish

• A written transcript of the poem (if submitted in video or audio format)

• Consent by a guardian for those under 18


Rules of the challenge:

1. The poem can be written in any poetic style and discuss any human rights issue. Please feel free to find inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

2. Poems may be submitted in video, audio or text form. If you are submitting a multimedia entry, please ensure that you send a text transcript of your poem as well. If your poem is within the top 50, we will include this transcript in the final publication.

3. All poems must be submitted in either English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai or Swahili.

• Multilingual poems are welcome, as long as there are accompanied by clear translations.

4. The poem in its entirety must be an original work by the person entering the contest. Plagiarism is a serious offense and will not be tolerated. We will not accept previously published poems.

5. Only one poem per person is allowed.

6. Poets of any age can submit their materials, but those below 18 will need to also submit a consent form with the signature of their parent or guardian.

7. Contest entries must be at least 3 lines long but cannot exceed 2,000 characters (with spaces, so approximately 300 words). Any submission that exceeds these limits will be automatically disqualified. The poem title does not count as a line, nor will it be included in the character count. To ensure proper lineation, please use the “Enter” key to start a new line, indicating all intentional line breaks.

8. Poems containing language that is vulgar, offensive, or wholly inappropriate will not be accepted.

9. Poems will receive bonus points if they:

• Use the phrase “Stay with Defenders” at some point or in some creative manner. These words don’t necessarily need to be in sequence, nor in English;

• Use positive narratives to describe the work of human rights defenders and collectives.