Michaelmas 2016: The State of the States

At the beginning of November, just before the American election, we decided that it was time to address some of the crucial human rights debates currently going on in the USA. Such a diverse topic requires a diverse range of experiences and mediums, so we were very pleased to be able to host a whole range of people with different perspectives on the issues of human rights in the US. This is why our multimedia event used poetry, comedy and discussion to try and deal with some of the complex issues surround human rights in the US
Blaire Andres, from Reprieve, gave a very important first hand account of Reprieve’s work for individuals on death row and how inhumane some of the execution methods are. Kate Dunbar followed this with a very insightful discussion of the problems of the US justice system, especially in relation to the war on drugs and how this linked to racism.

Jamnesty Michaelmas 2016

CUAI returned to Downing Bar on the 21st October to host its now renowned ‘Jamnesty’ open mic night.

Word had obviously spread since the last event, as we were inundated with requests to play from some really talented musicians across Cambridge’s student body.

Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh got things off to an impressive start with a set of his own material, whilst Jade Cuttle’s delicate voice left everyone enraptured. Returning favourites Zac Evans and Emily Myles both pulled large crowds through the door, and Holly Musgrave left such an impression on the hosts that she has since been invited back to perform at Downing Bar! Clara Collingwood brought a nice change of tone, and we were even treated to a number from CUAI’s very own Tiffany Hui. Time was left at the end for some impromptu performances, with a rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ being particularly memorable.

One of the best things about ‘Jamnesty’ is its ability to attract people who had just dropped into the bar and might not otherwise have come into contact with Amnesty International. Not only were stickers given out and petitions signed, but a total of £285 was raised. Thank you to all the performers and here’s hoping the next event will be equally successful!

Contributed by: Patrick Wernham

Freedom on their minds at Jamnesty

Tiffany Hui, songstress extraordinaire, soothes us with her dulcet tones.


Clara Collingwood was a pleasure to hear


Holly Musgrave was simply amazing

Truth For Giulio Rally–April 22nd, 2016

Students from the university gathered on Kings Parade to echo the calls of thousands of protesters worldwide, on Friday 22nd April, in support of the Truth For Giulio campaign.

The campaign aims to bring to light the true events surrounding the tragic death of Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found on the 3rd of February following his disappearance in Cairo on the 25th of January. Giulio’s murder was “This is a fight for academic freedom”, said Priscilla Mensah at the rally. The CUSU president emphasised the Student Union’s commitment to the campaign, offering their condolences to those who knew Giulio, noting too just how acutely the loss has been felt among the Cambridge community.

Cambridge students were not the only group represented at the rally. As well as CUAI, the Cambridge Amnesty City Group lent their support to the event, and as a result the march attracted people from all over Cambridge and even beyond. Within the university, Dr. Anne Alexander from the POLIS department – who had helped draft the letter, which was signed by over 4600 academics nationally, forcing the campaign even further into the spotlight– assisted in promoting an academic interest in the event. Dr. Glen Rangwala, an academic in the department where Giulio worked and one of his supervisors, delivered a more personal account of what Giulio was like, and urged those in attendance to continue to pursue the cause in his name. He dispelled any myth that what happened to Giulio might have been as a result of a lapse in caution: Giulio was well aware of the risks, exercised caution in every way expected of him, and yet was still a victim of this horrific crime.

Continue reading Truth For Giulio Rally–April 22nd, 2016

Jamnesty-Easter 2016

Downing Bar recently joined the illustrious ranks of London, Paris, and Los Angeles in being host to a human rights concert, and can easily lay claim to being just as much of a success.

The masses poured in on Friday evening (the 29th April) and were treated to a enjoyably diverse range of live music and comedy. There were those who had never performed live before, and those who harbour hopes of a professional career, and everyone in between. The sizeable crowd were treated to both original material, and well-known covers, in an evening that catered for those who came especially for the music, and for those who wanted something a bit more casual. CUAI’s very own Tiffany Hui and Madeleine Lofchy put the rest of the exec to shame by turning in one of the stand out sets of the night!

All in all, £180 was raised on a wholly successful and entertaining evening. Our thanks go out to all the attendees, performers, and anyone else who helped out along the way!

How to Change the World: Tackling Inequalities in the UK

This February CUAI decided to tackle the issue of UK inequality in an inspiring event that merged art and discussion to find new ways of combating inequality. The event explored the intersections and relationships between race, education, welfare and access to justice in creating inequality, allowing us all to get a more sophisticated understanding of how inequality is perpetuated.

We were very lucky to hear from two professionals who are working to make the UK a more equal place. Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang gave an inspiring account of his work in TeachFirst, which aims to close the gap in educational inequality, giving every child the best start in life. We also heard from Grace Seller from Frontline, about how social work can transform people’s lives and give them new opportunities. Both speakers gave us a new perspective on what it means to work with the most disadvantaged in society on a daily basis and how access to education and welfare can change a person’s life for good.

What was particularly inspirational about the evening was that it presented us with a myriad of ways that people can confront inequality. Mariam Ansar gave a fresh personal perspective on the issues of inequality by talking about her own background and her work for CUSU’s BME campaign and reading her poem that beautifully encapsulated the difficulties faced by those from disadvantaged communities. Troy Aidoo’s screening of his short film was a poignant exploration of the violence experienced by black communities at the hands of the police, yet another example of how disadvantaged communities experience injustice even in a justice system that claims to be equal to all. Mariam and Troy’s artistic work gave us a more personal understanding of the pain caused by the systemic injustices of British society and has inspired all of us to work harder to tackle inequality wherever we find it.

If you would like to support Troy’s work (he is currently working on a project called 1500 and Counting challenging deaths in police custody) have a look at the crowdfunding page below or check out his website.

Crowdfunding page: https://www.indiegogo.com/…/1500-and-counting-f…/x/13312315…

Twitter feed: @1500andCounting

Website: http://1500andcountingfilm.com/

If you would like to know more about Frontline, TeachFirst or CUSU’s BME campaign and the work they do check out their websites or watch Frontline’s short film about their work.

CUSU BME campaign: http://www.bme.cusu.cam.ac.uk/

Frontline film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84bE1M6Usz0

TeachFirst website: https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/

Creating Hope in Prisons: Clare McGregor on Coaching Offenders

In the final week of Lent term, CUAI welcomed Clare McGregor, Managing Director of Coaching Inside and Out (CIAO), a charity that offers life coaching to prisoners, to the Institute of Criminology where she gave a talk about criminal justice and the rights of offenders.

Clare began her talk by explaining that she had experienced three all-female red-brick institutions in her life: her school, Newnham College, where she was a student, and Styal Prison, where she has worked for the past five years coaching women. Of these, she said, Styal contains by far the most potential.

It is this potential that, through life coaching, CIAO hopes to unlock in prisons. Coaching involves finding out what offenders want to change and what is holding them back, and, as Clare explained, this has proved that the only thing that sets offenders apart from other people is the social circumstances that lead to them ending up behind bars. Many of Styal’s residents were themselves born in the prison’s mother-and-baby unit, which illustrates the fact that their life prospects were determined at birth.

Clare made the important point that CIAO’s clients ‘are not stupid, they just have very different career options to the rest of us’, referring to the fact that these are individuals who offend not out of choice but because they know no other option. One client was quoted as having explained that she ended up working on the streets because she needed to support her family, and, being ‘shit at shoplifting’, saw no other choice. CIAO works on the principle that that everyone has the right to a chance to escape such hopeless circumstances, and aims to help them find the ability to do so.

A sense of injustice led Clare to her work helping those who are given very few chances in life, and she stressed in her talk that we too are capable of working to change what we believe to be unfair. As CIAO’s work proves, small steps can allow progress to happen and help us work towards social justice.

For more info see CIAO’s website: https://coachinginsideandout.org.uk/
You can also follow Clare on Twitter @Clare_McGregor and email her

Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign 2016!

Lent term 2016 saw the launch of CUAI’s first ever Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign!

The campaign was a part of the larger ‘Hope and Home’ campaign lead by Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) and the Cambridge Hub. We also collaborated with a range of other student initiatives advocating for the rights of the homeless communities in Cambridge and abroad, including Cambridge Streetbite, Students Supporting Street Kids (SSSK), and Hiraeth.

All term CUAI’s wonderful college reps have been fundraising for b  and CHOP. The money raised in aid of SSSK will be going to grassroots organisations around the world that support street kids, and the money raised for CHOP will be used in further work engaging Cambridge students with organisations working with nthe homeless community in Cambridge.

As well as raising money another aim of our campaign was to engage students with the already existing initiatives helping the homeless community in Cambridge. In one of our weekly meetings we invited representatives of SSSK, Streetbite and Hiraeth to give quick talks about what they do and how CUAI members can get involved. As well as this CUAI sponsored a weekly Streetbite round after our normal Sunday meetings. This gave CUAI members an opportunity to directly help the homeless community in Cambridge, as well as get an idea of the significant numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge (not the 3 people the local council recognise).

We ended our campaign by hosting a panel discussion entitled ‘Homelessness and Human Rights: What’s being done and What Can We ado?’. The panel featured speakers from a range of different organisations looking at homelessness as a local, national, and international human rights abuse. Barry Griffiths joined us from Jimmys a shelter in Cambridge, François Holmey from Just Fair UK, and Sarah Rose from the Amos Trust. We are incredibly grateful to the speakers for joining us and hope everybody enjoyed the event!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this campaign possible! If you’d like anymore information about how you can get involved with the organisations mentioned above then please see the links below.

Jimmy’s shelter: http://jimmyscambridge.net
Just Fair: http://www.just-fair.co.uk
Amos Trust: http://www.amostrust.org

Cambridge Uni Amnesty International: https://www.facebook.com/camuniamnesty/
Students Supporting Street Kids: https://www.facebook.com/SSSKcambridge/
Cambridge Hub: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHub/
Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHomelessOutreachProgramme/
Streetbite: http://streetbite.soc.srcf.net/
Hiraeth: https://www.facebook.com/hiraethcambridge/


Jordan Hattar talks to CUAI

For CUAIs first meeting of term we were very excited to host Jordan Hattar, a graduate student from Trinity Hall and founder of Help4Refugees.org. Jordan’s inspiring talk outlined how he found himself setting up his own charity supported by UNHCR providing safer shelter in the form of caravans for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which currently is home to approximately 83,000 refugees.

Jordan’s work was prompted from collecting hundreds of refugees testimonies in the Zataari camp, which have been used by the BBC and Jordan Times. He found the most popular wish among the refugees he interviewed was to return to their homes in Syria, but in the short term to have better housing. The camp itself when Jordan started his work was submerged in water leading to unsafe and unhygienic conditions, resulting in frequent infant deaths – the need for safer housing was obvious and vital. Now, partly thanks to Jordan’s fundraising efforts, every single family in the Zaatari camp has access to a caravan.

Jordan finished his talk by taking a couple of questions, one of which was how can we help as students and activists? His answer was that we can obviously raise money for causes doing vital work, like his own and the Syrian Medical Society. However, ultimately we need to share stories and humanise the Syrian refugee crisis.

CUAI would like to say a massive thank you to Jordan and everyone who came to the event.