The final Community Researcher session of the year brought a few surprises – like a tour of one person’s house and their 6 Christmas trees and an 8am start for one participant dialling in from the USA. There were also some more predictable bits like my struggles with Zoom breakout rooms and screen sharing! But bringing together Human Rights Defenders from across the UK was always guaranteed to bring inspiration. Sharing stories of our work and learning as human rights activists and defenders, with tales from Belfast to Brent, Leith to Sheppey, Dartford to Newcastle, the warmth over zoom was tangible.
With the backdrop of the last few weeks with the cruel Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through the UK Parliament, the authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the latest government attempt to undermine our Human Rights Act our context feels bleak. At a national level, the powers are getting away with it. It’s relentless and at times we struggle to survive against the daily labour of oppression and the cumulative toll on our mental health.
The policy maker that causes hurt by how they talk about our disabled experiences.
The organisations that exclude our willing participation because of our transgender identity.
The resource rich local authority programmes that still don’t lead to changes in our communities.
How can we, as Human Rights Defenders, sustain ourselves in this daily reality?
But in our two hours together with allies from ATD 4th World UK, Participation and the Practice of Rights and Making Rights Real we found hope. We found warmth. We found inspiration. We found commonality across our geographical divides. We found fellowship over Zoom with those travelling the same road as us.
Human Rights activism is flourishing across the UK. In tiny pockets, in all corners of the nations. Whether it’s experienced movements like Participation and the Practice of Rights and ATD 4th World UK, or fledgling organisations like Making Rights Real and Difference North East, or ideas just beginning to come off the page with Sheppey is Ours! and Intisaar. Human Rights are being claimed. And the rights bearers will be held to account.
Roll on 2022!