By Hinda Mohamed, Just Fair Associate and Founder and CEO of Intisaar.
As I reflect on my experiences of being an activist, a researcher, and various roles I held over the years and as I sit down to write this blog one quote come to mind.
“Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building.”
by Paulo Freire.
Those of us who hold positions of power have responsibilities and duties to ensure that we create and engage in reflective processes and tools to consider language, accessibility, and ownership in everything we produce in order to guarantee everyone can understand the laws and the legal framework that impact our lives.
My right, your right, and our right to talk about rights USING ‘Human Rights: Not a Game’!!
As community workers and a grassroot activists from across England, we engaged with Just Fair’s Community Research project with Social Rights Alliance from 2021-2022. We explored using a human rights- based approach and how this approach can impact our social justice and campaign work within our community organisations.
We knew from the start that we needed to make sure that our community has access to this knowledge in a way that is understandable to all of us without jargon being used. Us meaning, all of us who are in the struggle to liberate and free ourselves, our communities and those who join this journey with us and become our allies from all forms of oppression. We wanted to make sure that all of us had an ownership and the right to talk about rights in ways that is meaningful to us.
Our question at the point of starting this work was always HOW can we transform and translate what we are learning and make it accessible to everyone who’s economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) have been abused or not met. The individuals who we interact with in everyday life. “ordinary people” who do extra-ordinary work every day. The survivors and the change makers in our community. To put it simple You and Me.
Is it “Game or Human Rights: Not a Game”?
Within 6 months of being part of this group the idea of a “game” was born out of our conversations. To be honest the question of is it a game still exists amongst us who came up with the concept. But somehow along the way we agreed that it is “Human Rights: Not a Game”.
Now that we have something we can share with our communities and anyone who wants to learn about ESCR. We had to test it out. The only way we would know if this works is for individual and groups from our network to tell us:
- Does it work? Can it be a game? Does it matter if you win or lose?
- Do people need it or want something like this?
- Will it help people to learn ESCR?
So, we took it to our communities to tell us what they think of “Human Rights: Not a Game”. One of the groups we tested it with was group of young people in Brent. Brent is one of the most diverse boroughs in London with 17.9% of households in Brent in Poverty.
The 12 young people age 14+ took part the taster workshop expressed how much they have learnt by just looking at the characteristics of the characters. They googled with excitement and urgent expressions on their face the words, as they didn’t know what certain sexual orientations of some of the characters as well as political beliefs meant. It became very clear it didn’t matter if it was a game or not or even if you win or lose. This was about gaining knowledge; it was about realising our power as a collective and it was about feeling that we are not alone in the struggle of liberating ourselves as we unlock the invisible chains that prevent us learning our rights.
This young group talked in depth about the fact no one they know talks about ESCR, and they never have this type of conversation at all.
“I wish this game can be at my school, we have a game room. I like the fact it has characters. Isn’t about me and my opinion, is about the character. I don’t have to worry upsetting my friends or peers”.
“If I tell my friends I went to a workshop that explored economic, social and cultural rights, trust me they will just laugh at me!! But we need to talk about these things in more engaging way like this. I learnt so much”.
We also tested it with a group in the North-East of England. Our discussion very much centred around disability. The game helped us to think through not only the lens of other identities, and how discrimination might impact different groups and individuals differently, but also allowed us to see some of the ways our rights are not being upheld as Disabled people. For example, there were occasions of great insight into how ‘access to the internet’- from one of the structural event cards, might have a hugely detrimental effect on our health and wellbeing, access to employment and, community services.
Playing also brought to life (through shared stories, our own and those we allocated our ‘characters’) the massive inequalities that Disabled people face, particularly regionally where, in the North East, we have the highest mortality rates, lowest life expectancy rates and healthy life expectancy rates in England. Our region is varied topographically and demographically, which means we also have high inequalities related to rural areas, including poorer access to services and social isolation.
Playing helped us figure out that many of the structural events, like the ‘Period Poverty’ card, which describes that many people can’t afford menstrual products, impact us as Disabled people disproportionately. The next step along was to acknowledge that these structural and non-structural events particularly impact anyone who might already be marginalised. We were able to discuss intersectionality and the different identities we each brought to the table, and how solidarity may well be the only way to challenge inequality.
Although we often veered away from talking about the specific articles outlined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we referred again and again to article 12 – our right to health. This initial play-session was just the start for some, of ever considering their economic, social, and cultural rights, and we’ll keep going back to it. We left on a note of power and determination that we could and would, keep talking about rights.
We invite you all to join us in this journey of learning OUR everyday right in a new and accessible way TO ALL OF US!