Local Volunteer Has International Ties


Editor’s note:  This post coincides with with International Women’s Day.  Ifat Gazia is a new Red Cross volunteer based in Wooster, Ohio, after being born and raised in the conflict zone in Kashmir. She is a researcher who reports on the human rights issues in her native land.

Photo provided by Ifat Gazia

Born and brought up in the largest militarized zone on earth, I grew up listening to stories of not just violence and killings but also of strength, courage and empathy. That is how we as Kashmiris were very empathetic towards each other and to the rest of the world, that usually visited us as tourists.

Kashmir is known for its conflict, and in spite of all the war and suffering the people have to go through on a daily basis, it is also known for its warm hospitality. Being occupied, killed, disappeared, raped, orphaned and tortured by the foreign powers did not leave us bitter and weak. Instead, it increased our strength and intellect. Made us realise that all we have is us and we need to stand up for each other time and again.

There has been a tradition of oral memory deeply rooted in our culture. I grew up hearing stories from my elders and later on started telling the same. Alongside, I understood the value of human empathy at a very young age. I also learned the will to defend our rights and the power to fight for the same.

The storyteller in me pushed me to pursue journalism, which I eventually realised wasn’t something I was really happy in doing. The reason was simple, reporting wasn’t enough. I did write stories but that was it. I didn’t see the impact. And just writing the stories wasn’t helping anyone anymore. People I interviewed for my stories tied their hopes to me and it wasn’t their fault but I did consider it my fault somehow for not delivering up to their expectations. That is when I changed my course of work and studied more about Human Rights, International Political Communication, Development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Media so that I can get into an organisation which actually works for making lives of common people better.

I recently moved to the USA for further education and got to observe the amazing work of American Red Cross very closely. The type of empathy and care the staff and volunteers have for their communities is really uplifting. Thousands of volunteers respond to emergencies and disasters every year, keeping their personal priorities aside. This is why I decided to volunteer for Red Cross and try to help with any skills I have got while I am here.

5 Ways to Support World Humanitarian Day


Sign the petition to protect civilians trapped in conflict
Visit www.worldhumanitarianday.org to sign the petition demanding that civilians in conflict are protected – encourage your colleagues and counterparts to add their
• Share the #NotATarget campaign on Social Media
Download a social media graphic from our repository http://bit.ly/WHDcomms17 and post it with the following sample tweet to your social media accounts:
On #WorldHumanitarianDay, I stand up for civilians trapped in conflict. They are #NotATarget. Sign the petition at WorldHumanitarianDay.org Visit OCHA’s Twitter (twitter.com/UNOCHA) and Facebook (facebook.com/UNOCHA/) accounts to share the
#NotATarget messages.

• Organize your Stand Together event
Invite your colleagues and partners to stand together in solidarity with millions of civilians trapped in conflict. We have prepared #NotATarget signs for you to print and
hold during the event. (See the guidelines for organizing a Stand Together.)

• Join a Stand Together event
Across the world, the UN and partners will be organizing Stand Together events. Contact an OCHA office in your country to see what is being planned. In New York, on Friday 18 August, you can join the the UN ‘Staff Stand Together’ at 11:30am at UNHQ and the public event in Times Square at 4:00pm. Similar events are being planned across the world. Together we will reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget and demand global action to protect them.

• Record a Facebook Live video with the #NotATarget filter
Starting from 18 August, visit UNOCHA’s Facebook page where you will find a link to the #NotATarget filter. Access the filter and record a live video, narrating the story of a person trapped in conflict.

The American Red Cross is a part of the global network dedicated to relieving human suffering. Learn more here.