Human rights petitions are the second most supported cause area on Change.org. While the effects of these human rights victories are often far reaching, the stories that inspire such action are often very personal.
Our most popular human rights victory was a petition started by Emily Clarke in the UK to save Meriam Yehya Ibrahim in the Sudan. Meriam was born to a Muslim father and Christian mother. She was raised Christian and married a Christian man. But in the Sudan, any child born to a Muslim father is considered Muslim.
Meriam was eight months pregnant when she was arrested on the charges of adultery for marrying a Christian and apostasy (abandonment of faith) for practicing it herself. She gave birth to a baby girl in jail where she was confined with her two-year-old son. Meriam was told to recant her Christian faith or face the penalties for adultery and apostasy, which are flogging and death, respectively.
Emily Clarke’s petition brought Meriam’s plight to the forefront, bringing it to the attention of people all over the world including leaders like UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom spoke against Meriam’s imprisonment. Media coverage of Meriam’s story also opened up debates around religious freedom and women’s rights.
Most importantly, all of this action, awareness, and conversation led to the release of Meriam and her two small children from jail. This victory is a testament to the impact one person and one person’s story can have.
The campaign to save Meriam likely aligns with what you think of as a human rights campaign. The second most popular victory on our list may surprise you.
Katy Butler was a high school student in Michigan when she heard that a new movie called Bully, which documents the bullying epidemic in American schools, would be given an “R” rating. A victim of bullying in middle school, Katy was outraged that the rating would prevent anyone under 17 from seeing the movie. It was precisely those middle and high school students that could benefit most from seeing the film.
She petitioned the Motion Picture Association of America to give Bully a “PG-13” instead. And with the backing of more than half a million people, including 35 members of Congress and celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Meryl Streep, the rating was changed.
Katy’s story demonstrates that making change isn’t limited by age. It also shows that how drawing attention to a small facet of a much bigger problem can result in national-level impact and debate.
To create this list, below, we took looked at all of the winning human rights petitions on Change.org and highlighted the most popular victories by signature count.
Top 5 Most Popular Human Rights Victories
1. Don’t Execute Meriam Yehya Ibrahim for Being Christian #SaveMeriam
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: July 24. 2014
Number of Signatures: 1,092,281
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese mother and doctor was charged with adultery and apostasy on the grounds of her marriage to a Christian man and her own Christian faith. She was eight months pregnant when she was arrested and gave birth to a baby girl in jail where she was also confined with her two-year-old son. While Meriam was imprisoned in Sudan, it was a UK petition that brought global attention to her plight and led to her release. See Victory
2. MPAA: Don’t Let the Bullies Win! Give ‘Bully’ a PG-13 Instead of an R Rating!
Country: United States
Date of Victory: April 5, 2012
Number of Signatures: 523,462
Seventeen-year-old Katy Butler successfully petitioned the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for the movie Bully to receive a “PG-13” instead of an “R” rating. See Victory
3. Reinstate Prosecutor Jose Maria Campagnoli
Date of Victory: September 22, 2014
Number of Signatures: 341,088
When prosecutor Jose Maria Campagnoli was suspended by an impeachment tribunal on “abuse of authority” charges in the case involving businessman Lázaro Báez, a citizen named Adriana Picardo started a petition to get him reinstated, convinced in his ability to fight corruption. See Victory
4. Apple: Protect Workers Making iPhones in Chinese Factories
Country: United States
Date of Victory: April 4, 2012
Number of Signatures: 256,418
After an episode of “This American Life” reported on the working conditions in the Chinese iPhone factories, Mark Shields started a petition asking Apple to release a worker protection strategy for new products and to make public the Fair Labor Association’s monitoring of their suppliers. See Victory
5. Repair the Damage Caused to My Wheelchair
Date of Victory: October 2, 2014
Number of Signatures: 237,852
Daniel Caverzaschi, a paralympic tennis player who represented Spain in 2012 Games, got off an Air Europa flight in London to find that his wheelchair had been destroyed in transit. After using social media to tell his story, he started a petition that won him compensation for the damage. See Victory
Passionate about human rights? Here are some petitions that might interest you: