Human Rights Activism in Belfast is Alive and KickingReflections on my student placement with PPR
I was delighted to be accepted for a work placement at PPR last month, as I’d heard such great things about this NGO and the organising work they do with marginalised groups like asylum seekers and Travellers, north and south on the island of Ireland.
I really wanted to meet the activists and members of the communities involved. I was also keen to experience first-hand how human rights approaches can be applied to social issues and how campaigns are built and sustained. I had a particular interest in mental health and was planning to focus my dissertation on the issue of trans-generational trauma.
My time in Belfast surpassed my expectations. My first morning I was welcomed into the team and was deeply moved by the asylum seekers I met at a campaign planning meeting. I saw how they are challenging duty bearers and policy makers directly, holding them accountable for human rights violations. I also heard about their achievements through the Kind Economy and the Anaka Women’s Collective initiatives. I was particularly affected by this group and their fight for dignity and rights, at a time when my own community in Waterford, and across the south of Ireland, has been experiencing a rise in racism, fuelled and orchestrated by far right groups and organisations, spreading deliberate mis-information about people seeking refuge.
Image caption: Lisa (bottom right) alongside activists from the New Script for Mental Health campaign
There is a really knowledgeable, enthusiastic team at PPR and they really are a team! At meetings you wouldn’t be able to tell directors from organisers, as every team member is valued equally. They support each other to find the best ways to collectively drive change from a grass roots level. As someone who’d worked in a corporate environment for many years in my former life, I couldn’t believe the absence of ego and the genuine team spirit in this NGO.
There was fierce work taking place in PPR as they were launching their New Script for Mental Health campaign. This campaign takes a human rights, trauma-informed approach designed by those directly affected by failures in the current mental health system.
At the launch event I was moved by the experiences of activists, poets, and the Rest of the Story writing group, who use activism and writing to heal trauma, support others and act for change.
I came to Belfast to study trauma, and I left ready to challenge inequality and work in the area of human rights and social justice.
This experience has left such a lasting impression on me and I will stay connected with this work as an activist and campaigner. Belfast is alive and kicking - people here at the baseline have an underlying level of community awareness and engagement that I’ve never felt before. I think people in the South have much to learn from the people in the North.
My granny was from Tyrone so she may have steered me a wee bit north. I came to Belfast to study trauma, and I left ready to challenge inequality and work in the area of human rights and social justice.