By Guest Blogger: Lynn Pilkington, Press and Policy Officer, Glasgow Central CAB, at the Glasgow event, run in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
When I was younger I was the girl with the red face stamping her feet and protesting ‘but that’s not fair!’ On Tuesday, gathered together in a seminar room in GDU, although now masked by maturity and smart-dress, I learned those around me were of the same breed.
Social justice – a passion that unites us
Those in attendance came from a variety of backgrounds – students, politicians, charity-workers, lecturers, advocates. Different motives led us to be there – work, intellectual stimulation, to get in lecturers’ good books (!) but all of us human beings in search of a society based on civil liberties and respect.
Those in attendance spoke with a common passion for social justice, a passion which fuels me in my policy work with Citizens Advice. A passion which I felt as a law student and member of the Amnesty Society. A passion which wakes me everyday desperate to right all the wrongs in the world.
Breaking down barriers of ‘otherness’
But, as we discussed in our afternoon session with lecturers from the GCU and SCVO Masters in Citizenship and Human Rights, frustration with the status quo needs to then be followed with action. In the closing remarks we heard urges for all of us to work together and pool resources to make the changes actually happen.
Earlier our group had discussed the importance of breaking down the barriers of ‘otherness’ that currently infest our society. We were dismayed by the disconnect between having respect for your neighbour and the burdensome connotations often attached to human rights. We discussed the importance of creative arts projects, such as the musical Glasgow Girls, and the local project Albert Drive, that binds citizens and crumbles prejudices from within.
Scotland the Brave?
Scotland itself was a recurring topic of the day. Some started the day with the belief that our country is greatly hospitable to human rights . As the day went on, however, and attendees from across the globe gave their views, we were humbled into realising we still have a lot of work to do on our culture of human rights. Social justice may not be currently ‘pouring out the taps like water’ but we did recognise that the collective Scottish instinct of ‘That’s no right!’ (a new campaign our discussion group founded that day), a great starting point.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission spoke of their action plan to turn our good intentions into good practice and how we could use the upcoming opportunity of the referendum, no matter the outcome, (although audience members from the ‘Yes’ campaign might have advocated otherwise) to carve a forward-looking, mature and human-rights based approach in Scotland.
After Tuesday I feel that my simmering passion is ripe to bring about practical change to bring society closer to social justice. Is this the idealism of youth? Or, perhaps, an overdue realism that we can no longer go on underrating the value of human rights? Watch this space.