The importance of giving a shit


Dr. Anna Neistat gives her keynote speech at the Integrity Summit 2016. Source: Jessica West

Dr Anna Neistat, a leader of Amnesty internationals global research team, today gave her keynote speech, Taking Injustice Personally, at the Integrity 20 Summit.

Dr Neistat’s keynote speech highlighted the notion of everyone without exception can contribute to fighting injustice.

The first incident that allowed Anna Neistat to get her start in this field was when her friend, an experienced journalist asked for her help rescuing a family from Tajikistan.

“There were 8 people including a young woman who was very pregnant they were stuck in a tiny mountain village and the village was about to be attacked. Their lives were clearly in danger. My friend wanted me to get a military aeroplane and fly the mother of the family to pick up her children and husband and bring them back,” she said.

The point that was constantly emphasised throughout this keynote and that aided Dr. Neistat in the rescue of these 8 individuals was the notion of just caring.

“I owe family more then I can imagine, they are the reason I am standing here today and the reason I have been able to deal with some of the largest occupational hazards we have in this work and sometimes the inevitable despair,” she said.

Since this first experience, she has worked in many war zones and closed countries where unimaginable abuses have occurred.

“I spoke to mothers who spend their days going from one mass grave to anther looking through bodies hoping to find their children. I saw villages burnt to the ground and elderly men and women with charred faces and burnt hands trying to rescue what small remaining possessions they have, ” she said.

She has documented a massacre in Uzbekistan the government was hoping no one would find out about and visited Nauru where refugees are held by Australia in an open air prison subjected to extreme suffering and abuse.

“One distinctive characteristic that is common for all these places, abuses happen in darkness, the governments and most other perpetrators commit horrendous abuses again against other people as they believe they can hide them and that nobody would care enough to expose them,” she said.


Amnesty has created a worldwide movement capable of making changes all around the world.

“There was a young man in Nigeria named Moses, and he got arrested for stealing a few cellphones and then he got tortured and sentenced to death and spent 8 years on death row. All these 8 years amnesty members and supporters around the world sent him letters and petitions and emails and faxes for his release. Just think about for a second, it worked, he actually got pardoned after all these years, he walked out of the prison, he went to his home village and hugged his mother who probably wasn’t hoping to see him again alive,” she said.

If you care, there is a good chance you will find someone else who does and that starts a chain reaction that eventually leads to massive change.

Dr. Neistat concluded her keynote with “When I speak to various audiences people often ask what exactly they can do. Just begin with giving a shit,”.


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