Dignity for all in practice: Overcoming poverty based discrimination
On 11 February, ATD Ireland, including community activists Andrew and Gavin participated in a UN zoom event ‘Dignity for all in practice: Overcoming poverty- based discrimination. This was a side event to the United Nations Commission for Social Development 2022. This event was attended by ATD Ireland, Professor Diane Roman, Professor Oliver De Schutter (UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), Mr Gouba Ousseini (Permanent mission of Chile to the UN), and moderated by Professor Sandra Liebenberg.
Read Andrew’s full speech below:
Presentation by Andrew
UN Feb 11th 2022
I’m Andrew from ATD Ireland Thank you for this opportunity to address this room, full of people who can and do make a difference
I’m here today as a community activist from ATD Ireland because I believe change is possible, I really want a better world and a more just society for my kids without such poverty and open socio-economic discrimination that I have faced my whole life.
Only by working together can we break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
As we all know this last 22 months, was a difficult time for many people, particularly those who had felt excluded and were dealing with persistent struggles and worries even before the pandemic. They felt more than ever left behind.
I want to briefly mention an important project that helped me to be here today and supported be to express myself and step up.
One of our projects in Ireland during the lockdown was to create an online writing group where people could share writing, hopes, support and aspirations – It restored hope for people to be able to express themselves in a creative way through writing.
We were liberated from isolation; a prison can often be 6 inches between ‘here and here’ a prison of the mind.
This creative expression was a distraction from poverty- the reason I use the word distraction – is that poverty is consistent, and the writing set us free from our prison of the mind.
I want to share a link to our poems: Lockdown Liberties: Spoken and Written Word – All Together in Dignity – ATD Ireland
One of the examples of poetry :
Your constant mocking echoes again and again.
If only silence let peace begin.
Eradicate your torment with the swipe of my pen.
A little trick learnt while confined to a cell.
How the beauty in a poem can free one from hell- Paul
This Lockdown project supported me to be here today and speak out: Finding the strength and confidence to speak out is essential, and an early step in any real partnership for creating change- this should not be overlooked
Genuine participation and building trustful partnerships is key
For too long we have not had a genuine seat at the tables of power, when I say genuine – I am referring to having our voices, ideas and aspirations heard, listened to and acted upon.
But people with direct experience of poverty should be recognised as experts on poverty and should be included in any societal debate, we need to change the tables to be more accessible!
This participation is essential but it takes time and efforts to build up the confidence to speak out, I know.
What does it mean to live in poverty?
‘Poverty is not being able to smell the flowers because the stress of life gets in the way.’
This simple sentence makes us very aware of many of the issues facing people living in poverty
Poverty is a multidimensional issue, a lot more complex than only financial, we are facing multiple challenges simultaneously.
When I was young I was written off, by many…due my situation – but now I have defied all the odds: Now I have the skills and experience because of the struggles I went through
All too often people’s skills are not recognised and even ignored – this is prejudice and discrimination. It results in people in poverty feeling they are treated like lesser human beings.
Discrimination is part of the poverty experience and should be addressed
When you live in poverty and you experience socio-economic discrimination you don’t have any real protection, even though in Ireland we have already 9 discrimination grounds in the equality legislation. We are not protected, we constantly fall through the cracks.
One of our main campaigns in Ireland is to ask for Socio-Economic Discrimination to be brought into equality legislation… things can’t move forward until we bring in socio-economic status as 10th ground.
I’m proud to be part of this campaign, and I have recently spoken to Irish Ministers about Socio-Economic Discrimination – to build up awareness of the need for a 10th Ground in equality legislation
I would like to share two short examples from Ireland
Prejudice and Discrimination
When my wife was in hospital giving birth to our first child, the first person to visit her was a social worker, and because we had a history of addiction, the social worker came down on us pretty hard and this really made my wife afraid that our baby would be taken away by the social worker.
In the end the social worker visited our home and everything was fine.
But should this be the way you bring your first child into the world – with fear and discrimination?
Poverty is Socio-Economic Discrimination
“A single parent can be struggling day in day out on very little income. This can arrive on a Thursday, by Monday it’s gone. Gone on Gas, Baby products, food, washing and household stuff, leap card, clothes. Etc the basics not luxury items. You can feel discriminated against because you are a young parent struggling, you can feel dominated by the system and you can feel that you can’t stand up to it, feeling lower down the pecking order than others who are better off…. and society views people very differently who are struggling. This can and does lead to discrimination. The consequence can be very damaging, leading to low confidence, lack of self-worth, depression, poor health, stigma, guilt. This can have a negative effect on the child, that child could be open to bullying at school and feel less important than others.
The judgement hurts, the shame hurts..
It takes so much strength for that parent to not breakdown. This is the cycle of poverty
We have many more real-life examples like these in our ‘Does it only happen to me’ Report on Socioeconomic discrimination that bought over 100 people together to share examples of discrimination.
I just wanted to highlight the massive link between being discriminated against, shouldering shame and stigma and the effect on mental health. It really hurts to the point where it can give you a mental health disorder- we need to act now.
Can you imagine Ireland or even the world where people that do experience socio economic discrimination been able to access employment, be able to access goods and other services without having this fear and shame. I would love to see this happen in my lifetime, so my kids can grow up without this fear. This would address the deep impact and loss of dignity that discrimination brings, leading to more happy and content lives and it would decrease the amount of people that suffer from mental strain. It just doesn’t make sense to me to not have a 10th ground in equality legislation and protection within the law.
In conclusion: I would like to stress that we really need to act together for change, with no one left behind!!, and make us again feel proud of the UN and what the UN can stand for.
Thank you for listening and thank you for this experience – when I said earlier on that many people had written me off- I was one of them.
I would have never imagined myself speaking out at an event as important as this. We are here and willing partners. Thanks
We are very proud of Andrew and Gavin for contributing to this important event and hope that it will make an impact on the work of the UN Commission for Social Development in the future.