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This blog was produced as part of Just Fair’s movement building work through the Social Rights Alliance.

We have been busy these past few months developing our social rights movement building work. As mentioned in recent blog posts, this has included undertaking a ‘human rights-based approach’ audit of our work. The audit has involved using learning from the Community Researchers’ ‘Manifesto for a HRBA’, the project’s Evaluation Report, the PANEL principles, other SRA learning and speaking with a range of human rights organisations including Amnesty International UK, Liberty, Making Rights Real (MRR), Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR), and the Scottish Human Rights Commission who all provided us with really useful insights.

Our activist workshop

As a part of this process, we were fortunate enough to hold a workshop with ATD Fourth World and activists with lived experience of economic, social, and cultural rights violations. ATD Fourth World’s methodology centres around the promotion of activists with ‘lived experience’ as the people who have first-hand experience of poverty rights violations, making them the strongest advocates for change. Just Fair shares this understanding, and so were excited to learn what ATD and these activists had to say:

  • The use of complicated language is off-putting. There is often confusion from the use of jargon & complex language with activists expressing concern with terminology such as ‘participation’, ‘agency’ and ‘intersectionality’. This language is common across human rights but can be off-putting for some – meaning they are unable to engage with an approach that is primarily meant for them. In addition, language used by professionals can sometimes be triggering, for example when talking about ‘resilience’.
  • Within participation, safety is essential. 1-to-1 support for people participating in projects is necessary because they are discussing sensitive and personal issues, sometimes while still in the middle of a crisis. This fact was highlighted by activists who said that ATD provides peer support to those participating in its projects. In some cases, trauma-informed practice is helpful. In other cases, lived-experience activists prefer to simply focus on their own strengths.
  • The voices of all people should be heard. This is an important point for inclusion but is also necessary for creating space for change to occur. The establishment of spaces that allow participants to have a say in how the project is carried out goes a long way in providing accountability for the project. This invaluable feedback echoes the recommendations put forward in our Community Researchers project Evaluation Report.

When discussing the issues of solidarity and power, the words of Moraene Roberts, an activist with ATD who passed away in 2020, were remembered. She said:

“For ourselves, we’re often so battered down by the situation that we accept it. But when you see others suffering, you feel indignant about what’s been done to them. You begin looking for people to support. It really was a fight; it felt like a struggle for years and years. More than a fight, it was a rage: how dare they impose this on us, and then blame us for it? Eventually you can get over the rage — but you can’t do that alone. Realising that you’re with others gives you courage.”

These powerful words from Moraene speak to the importance of building solidarity in order to create safe and open spaces amongst those that have lived experience.

This gives you a flavour of some of the findings of our audit.

The audit report is being finalised and will be used to inform Just Fair’s future strategy and development. Keep an eye out for it!

Background image by Camila Leão