What is social justice and how can we achieve it?


February 20th, 2014

It’s World Day of Social Justice; I’d like to tell you more about it and how it translates to our work.

“The gap between the poorest and the wealthiest around the world is wide and growing. … We must do more to empower individuals through decent work, support people through social protection, and ensure the voices of the poor and marginalised are heard.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Set up by the United Nations, the aim of World Day of Social Justice is to focus attention on efforts to eradicate poverty and make the world a fairer place.

Did you know that the wealth of the top 1% of the global population equals that of the poorest 3.5 billion people?! 

So what is social justice?

It’s quite hard to define social justice. The wikipedia social justice definition is ‘the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live’In essence, it is concerned with equal justice, not just in the courts, but in all aspects of society. This concept demands that people have equal rights and opportunities; everyone, from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves an even playing field.

It’s such a wide ranging concept and the immediate question that springs to mind is how can we achieve social justice? 

The answer lies in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

These goals are to:

millennium development goals

I read a fantastic document recently by Naila Kabeer from the Institute of Development Studies: Can the MDGS provide a pathway to social justice? The challenge of intersecting inequalities which details what needs to be prioritised to accelerate progress in achieving social justice.

Here’s an example of how Practical Action is working for social justice:

In Kathmandu, Nepal, dire poverty forces thousands of men, women and children to make a living from picking through rubbish. These waste pickers sell materials such as plastic, metal, cloth and paper that they’ve collected from rubbish dumps, bins and from along roadsides. Despite their contribution to society by removing and recycling large quantities of waste, waste pickers in Nepal are seen as the lowest of the low, treated like rubbish because they work with rubbish. They’re exploited socially and economically. They are shouted at in the street, they are not allowed on public transport, they don’t have access to healthcare, education, clean water, sanitation or decent housing.

Dilmaya wastepicking 3

With your help, Practical Action has: 

  • launched media campaigns to raise awareness of the role of waste workers, changed people’s attitudes and gained their respect and recognition for the work they do.
  • set up social protection schemes to provide income security, saving and credit schemes to help waste workers become self-sufficient. Waste workers are also receiving support to set up their own businesses, including training and having access to the technology needed to make their businesses work.
  • provided first aid boxes and training on how to use them; provided water and sanitation; trained people on handwashing and handling hazardous waste; provided safety equipment like boots, gloves, masks, coats, trousers and hats and set up health care schemes in collaboration with community hospitals.
  • helped waste picker children get access to education and provided them with school uniforms, bags, books and stationery that their parents can’t afford. We’ve also helped adults get access to education so they can get better jobs or set up their own businesses.

Within the scope of the MDGs, we’re addressing extreme poverty in the area, ensuring environmental sustainability by providing clean water and sanitation, giving children access to education and helping empower women by giving them the skills and tools to set up their own businesses.

Find out more about our work with urban waste pickers in Nepal.

In all the work we do, partnerships are crucial.  It’s absolutely vital we include all members of the community, regardless of age or gender. If we didn’t then any project would, in time, simply collapse. We also work with a range of organisations worldwide. We share information at all levels, from people at the very grassroots of society to government institutions.

How can I work for social justice?

Each of us can play our role in contributing to the creation of a more just world.

  • Share what you have learned about social justice with your social groups and networks – raise awareness of development issues and inspire others to take action
  • Support organisations that support social justice
  • Engage in and help influence political and policy decisions

Why not sign up to our newsletter to find out more about our work and join our community?

3 responses to “What is social justice and how can we achieve it?”

  1. Sean garcia Says:

    Big help for our community and for the next generationGood job

  2. Harnoor Guraya Says:

    More info next time plz

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