The Purple Finger Campaign is Launched in Downpatrick for Afghan Women Margaret Ritchie MP and the Chairperson of Down District Council, Michael Coogan launched Amnesty International’s “Purple Finger” campaign in the St Patrick Square on International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. The Mid-Down Group of Amnesty International, based in Downpatrick, set up its “Purple Finger” petition to ask the UK government to make women’s rights a priority in its work onAfghanistan as the deadline looms for the withdrawal of British military forces at the end of 2014. [caption id="attachment_37027" align="alignleft" width="360"] Margaret McMahon, Amnesty International Mid Down member, South Down MP Maragert Ritchie, Down District Council Chairman Councillor Mickey Coogan, Philip Nye, Chairperson of Amnesty International Mid Down branch, and Lilian Nye, Mid Down member, pictured in St Patrick’s Square in Downpatrick celebrating Women’s Day 2013 by launching the ‘purple finger’ campaign. [/caption] The purple finger symbol, a reflection of how voting is recorded in Afghanistan, is being used as an image of Afghan women’s empowerment and Amnesty is asking people to put their own purple fingerprint on the petition to the Department for International Development. The petition asks the DIFD to ensure that combating violence against women is made a UK priority in Afghanistan. Philip Nye, Chairperson of the Mid-Down Group, said: “After the dark years of Taleban rule and years of terrible conflict, now is the time for the UK to stand up for women’s rights in Afghanistan. There have been significant improvements for women and girls there since 2001, with new anti-violence laws passed. Some 2.5 million girls have enrolled in schools and women taking an active role in public life, including 27% of MPs in the Afghan parliament. “However, there has been an upsurge of targeted killings and attacks on schoolgirls and their teachers by the Taliban. Meanwhile the Afghan government’s 70-strong High Peace Council set up to negotiate a possible peace deal with the Taliban, has only nine women in it. There are real fears that women’s rights might be traded away and for things to go backwards”. The Mid-Down Group campaigned for the release of Burmese prisoners of conscience. The stone on the flowerbed was highlighting this cause. With the release of their ‘adopted’ prisoner Khaing Kaung San, the group has changed the inscription to “ Amnesty International-Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied.” Amnesty International, Mid-Down Group, meet on the first Thursday of each month at 8.00 pm at the Mill Ballydugan. New members are always welcome. ( Contact Philip Nye, Chairperson on , on 028 4485 1920.