Two student societies at St. Georges Medical School of the University of London - the International Tamil Society (ITS) and Amnesty International (AI) - cohosted a bake sale on Monday May 23 to raise awareness of war crimes and rights abuses in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and to raise funds for a children's charity and rights advocacy campaigns.
Drawing undergraduate and postgraduate students and other visitors, the day-long event was intended to inform future health professionals in Britain and elsewhere on war crimes in Sri Lanka and rights abuses there and in Zimbabwe, organisers said.
The event also sought to give St. Georges students a means through which they could support victims of the two states’ policies.
At the ITS food stall visitors bought traditional Tamil snacks and sweets, and boxes of biryani and pasta. A popular purchase were fairy cakes decorated with the phrases ‘Boycott Sri Lankan cricket’ and ‘Stop genocide’.
Sales peaked at lunchtime, helping raise funds for ITS's chosen charities, the UK Tamil Student’s Union’s (UKTSU) Mannar Orphanage project, and for Amnesty International's advocacy campaigns.
The ITS’s poster-board campaign alongside the food stall highlighted the ‘Boycott Sri Lankan Cricket’ campaign, launched in March along similar lines to the successful past campaign against Zimbabwe.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had cancelled Zimbabwe’s 2009 cricket tour, following a build up of popular awareness of abuses by the regime there.
Visitors to the stall signed the ‘Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket’ post card petition to the ECB. The campaign was initiated by the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) in March.
Some cricket fans amongst the visitors were not unaware of the issue, having read a recent article by former England captain Mike Atherton highlighting the close links between politics and cricket in Sri Lanka and the rights abuses in the country. A copy was available on the poster-board for those who hadn't seen it.
Amnesty International focused their efforts on highlighting Zimbabwe’s ongoing abuses against political activists. Many of these are women fighting for human rights, who are often victims of violent reprisals by the state. AI collected signatures for a petition campaign in support of ‘Women of Zimbabwe Arise’ (WOZA).
“We have raised awareness amongst many people who had only a vague idea of the issues in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. We also raised over 300 pounds on the day. The profits will be split equally between our two organisations' projects,” an organiser said.