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World Day of Social Justice

The commitment to writing a blog provides the opportunity to read around topics which in the normal course of our lives we just take for granted. As a Soroptimist, I have learned the benefit of working with others for social development and, in particular, for the benefit of women and girls. That is, Social Justice in action.

It is extremely difficult to find an exact definition of ‘Social Justice’, but so easy to see where it is lacking in our society. The United Nations suggests:

Social justice is based on the values of fairness, equality, respect for diversity, access to social protection, and the application of human rights in all spheres of life, including in the workplace

This philosophy was first proposed by the International Labour Organization as early as 1919, but a hundred years later they still must report that we as a society are struggling to achieve Social Justice in the face of inequality and exclusion.

At the World Summit for Social Development (1995) the pledge was made to overcome poverty through full employment and to create safe, stable, and just societies while keeping the person at the centre of economic development. By 2007 the United Nations (UN) had designated 20th February as the world day of Social Justice.

The UN designates specific days during the year in which to give attention to a particular issue or theme and these ‘special observances’ have been found to provide a theme which will be a powerful advocacy tool and focus for community action. The broader Civil Society and, indeed, Soroptimists frequently make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions.

The theme for Social Justice Day, 2023 focuses on the recommendations from the UN Common Agenda, to strengthen global solidarity and to re-build trust in government by ‘Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice’. Barriers to Social Justice have to do with lack of fairness – which is of course very difficult to define – but becomes apparent where people’s human rights are diminished, where diversity is disregarded, where for any reason citizens are treated differently or excluded from participation in society. The theme provides a prism through which we must examine, not just what happens abroad, but what is happening on our doorsteps.

The UN statement stresses the importance of seeking  social justice despite the context of rising poverty and inequality. Already existing inequalities have been increased by the COVID pandemic and demographic alteration as a result of political upheaval and climate change. However, the UN underlines the urgency to take a multilateral approach to world problems and ‘renewing the social contract between governments and their people and within societies, anchored in a comprehensive approach to human rights’

Without promoting Social Justice, the UN tells us we are accepting ‘a future marred by violence, repression, and chaos’

As a Soroptimist, I want to end on a rather more optimistic note and give ourselves some credit for Social Justice delivered through of our Programme Action.

As an important international organisation we are not afraid to speak to power on issues that we consider important for women and girls – an hour spent reading Soroptimist positions papers is an hour well spent.

How many of our varied projects fit the Social Justice profile – Not surprising, I suppose, since we measure our performance against the UN development goals. From the latest Soroptimist News Magazine you can see we are supporting women and girls into digital learning and enterprise. We march and advocate to end violence against women and girls, supporting environment development, supporting fairtrade business and helping women through recovery from mastectomy.

So, Sisters, please enjoy February 20th 2023!

Mary Hession
SI Drogheda ROI