Helen Bamber: The Human Force Against Human Rights Violation

by laeti.y.felix on March 31, 2015 - 8:40am

            Helen Bamber, a prominent human rights activist and psychotherapist, began her work in activism when she was about twenty years old. Bamber, born in Britain in May of 1925, decided to volunteer in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (located in Germany) soon after World War II had ended.  This eventually sparked a career in human rights activism and social work that lasted for over 60 years, up until her death in August of 2014.  One of the most prominent organizations Bamber had worked with was Amnesty International, where they had aimed to terminate the act and/or practice of torture.  They began working together over a span of several, beginning in 1961 in order to educate people about what torture constitutes and what to do about it if one has knowledge of torture being practiced.  From her time collaborating with Amnesty International, Bamber was inspired by the work and she later founded an organization to help victims of torture called The Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture (now known as Freedom from Torture) in 1985.  The organization’s purpose is to offer clinical and therapeutic help to victims of torture.

            By many accounts, Bamber was a small (seemingly) unassuming, and elderly lady but once in conversation, people knew that she was a force of nature.  She was easy to talk to and easy to open up to, which may have helped her in her career as a psychotherapist.  She was a kind woman who listened to those she conversed with.  Not only this, but she was persistent and driven.  She was motivated to help as many people as she could, and when she saw someone in need of help, she would continue to try to convince them to get therapy from her organization until the person complied.

            Bamber was a busy woman, especially while juggling motherhood and a career.  In 2005, Bamber began a charity-based foundation called the Helen Bamber Foundation.  This foundation aims to provide a variety of services, including therapeutic and legal services, to individuals who have survived from having their (human) rights being violated.  Despite being officially retired in 2013, Bamber still went to the foundation’s establishment to help and work every day.  The Helen Bamber Foundation drew many people to help and work for it.  Among those are celebrities as well. One example of a celebrity working for the foundation is British actress Emma Thompson, who now acts as president for the foundation.

            The Helen Bamber Foundation was the inspiration (and was in support) of an art exhibit that had taken place in the UK in 2007.  The art exhibit, entitled ‘The Journey (Against Sext Trafficking)’, consisted of seven transport containers.  In each container, it told the story and journey of a woman who has experienced sex trafficking and survived (therefore in total, there were seven women being exhibited in the art show, one woman for each container). Each container was decorated just as any other transport container might look like, but on the inside of each transport container (where the art exhibit takes place), it shows through pictures and artwork what each woman had gone through and how they felt.  The purpose of making the art exhibit inside the containers was to show the general population what it might have been like to live inside the containers, day in and day out, and being sexually violated by known or unknown entities against one’s will.  The exhibit was made possible by Emma Thompson and Sam Roddick.  Sam Roddick is an activist for a variety of fields especially sex trafficking and is also an entrepreneur.  She is the daughter of Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop. Sam Roddick was inspired to be an activist from her mother’s work, where Anita was a passionate activist for the environment.

            The violation of human rights does not have to be on an extreme level, there is a scale of where the violation can stand on.  Some of the more extreme cases that may occur that violates the rights of a human being may include false imprisonment, rape, or human/sex trafficking.  Some of the more subtle violations of human rights are sexual harassment exhibited on the streets.  In my previous post, titled ‘Sexual Harassment in the Streets’ (http://newsactivist.com/en/articles/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/sexual-harassment-streets), I explained that street harassment is the unwanted attention on a specific person by one or more strangers.  The attention may be varied, but they include catcalling, sexual or undesired comments directed towards the individual, groping, etc.  Sexual harassment on the streets may be considered as a violation of human rights because if someone is targeted from street harassment, they do not have the open freedom of being outside of their own home peacefully and may fear for their own safety.  Not only this, but if a person has been targeted from street harassment, especially if they have been commented on in a sexual nature, the individual may have to take extra precautions in what they wear outside of their home because they want to avoid being targeted again because of their attire.  In essence, the individual is at the mercy of strangers and is unable to live with peace of mind, and lives with a sense of paranoia.

            Helen Bamber had created a ripple effect in human rights activism, especially in the United Kingdom.  She inspired a variety of people to help campaign against the practice of torture and human rights violation.  With the more than 60 years of human rights activism under her belt, there is more to be done to continue on her legacy and work to fight against what she believed in.