Racial inequity harms the lives and prosperity of everyone

Racial inequity harms the lives and prosperity of everyone

“Racial inequity harms the lives and prosperity of everyone, not just people of color. Curbing inequities is more than the right thing to do—it’s an imperative for achieving the social outcomes grant makers wish to see.”

That’s the thesis of a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy,  outlining six steps foundations can take to heal racial divides. Authors Lori Bartczak and Starsky Wilson encourage funders not to be satisfied with collecting data about the disparities within their own communities, but to go further by using grant dollars to help close those gaps.

As an example from the field, Bartczak and Wilson cite the Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership program, a collaborative effort here in Chicago to support women of color engaged in social, economic and racial justice movements. Over the last five years, this program has worked to build leadership skills among participants, which in turn strengthens the organizations they lead, and the community justice ecosystem as a whole.


Cultivate was developed as a joint project among the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Chicago Foundation for Women, Crossroads Fund and The Chicago Community Trust. At each partner organization, the staff members overseeing the project are women of color themselves, modeling the collaborative nonprofit leadership that Cultivate is designed to advance.

The program has five goals:

  • Support the personal and professional development of women of color
  • Develop a framework that intentionally incorporates race and gender in the participants’ leadership and professional development
  • Build a safe and healthy space for women of color to discuss and learn about alternative models of leadership, organization building, community organizing and movement building
  • Advance the sustainability and longevity of individual women’s leadership, while enabling a pipeline for new leaders to emerge within grassroots organizations
  • Nurture relationships to create a learning community across organizations and fields of work

To date, more than 80 women of color have participated in Cultivate. Over the course of a year, each participant attends bimonthly working sessions focused on leadership development, organizational development and movement building skills, in addition to working one-on-one with an executive coach to hone their personal practice.

Land in the Struggle for Social Justice: Social Movement Strategies

Land in the Struggle for Social Justice: Social Movement Strategies

ESCR-Net and member Terra de Direitos announce the release of a new publication in English, Spanish and Portuguese documenting experiences of diverse social movements that have utilized the human rights framework in their struggles for land, and the lessons they have learned in that process.

Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the publication documents diverse experiences by social movements using human rights in their struggles for land, and the lessons they have learned. The publication, produced by ESCR-Net and Terra de Direitos, introduces human rights – not as a narrowly defined legal concept but as a broad tool that is often useful in applying a wide range of creative strategies to realize grassroots demands related to land in the struggle for justice.

Four chapters offer several case studies that capture important experiences in the use of human rights in the context of social movements’ struggles for land. The first case describes the long struggle by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in the Niger Delta, in defense of their rights to their land and against the ravages of oil extraction and resulting pollution. It highlights several innovative, human rights-based strategies employed by MOSOP, including the Ogoni Bill of Rights, work with UN special rapporteurs and treaty bodies and other mechanisms. The second case focuses on the use of human rights by the Nairobi Peoples Settlement Network (NPSN) in order to raise awareness among, organize and mobilize residents of the city’s informal settlements. It describes how the NPSN articulated the local realities of their members with international human rights standards and translated the demands of residents into policy proposals to promote a right to adequate housing and land in Kenya’s informal settlements.

The third case examines the experience of the Platforma DhESCA (Platform for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights in Brazil) in their collaboration with National Rapporteurs, a mechanism modeled on the United Nations Special Rapporteurs. Focusing on the work of the National Rapporteur on the Right to Land, Territory and Adequate Food, this case reviews the work of this mechanism to identify broad trends in human rights violations in the country and amplify the voices of affected communities. The final case analyzes the development and eventual adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It narrates the long and arduous path that the indigenous rights movement followed to promote, in their own name, broad international recognition of the rights of indigenous people, including over their ancestral territories.

The publication was made possible due to the critical contributions of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network, the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education (Tebtebba) and the Plataforma DhESCA Brasil. It has also been strengthened thanks to the valuable input provided by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Abahlali baseMjondolo, South Africa and FIAN International.

According to a reviewer from Abahlali baseMjondolo, “this document is very much rooted in a human rights paradigm which means that it can be useful for popular movements when they interface with the law, NGOs and other human rights organisations.” She also cautions us to remember that struggles for land and justice must be diverse and always creative. Another reader from the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum reflected, upon reading the publication, that “human rights are within. Those are not given but provided space to be realized.” Among key lessons from the publication, this reviewer identified the need for social movements to pursue focused goals, engage in political education and effectively be driven by, and accountable to, their grassroots members.

Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, this manual is intended to be used broadly by social movements and human rights advocates who are exploring creative new approaches to promoting human rights in the context of land.

Bringing the Private Sector into Disaster Risk Reduction

Bringing the Private Sector into Disaster Risk Reduction

More than 130 years from today, in 1886 May 1st, several thousand workers in Chicago city had participated in the massive strike demanding eight-hour working day and several workers sacrificed their life to achieve this demand. From that day onwards, May 1st is celebrated as the International Workers Day, as a symbol of working class unity against the capitalist class. In 1926, British India government brought the Indian Trade Union Act which deals with trade union registration and their rights. Even after 90 years of this act, formation of trade unions and labour rights including the eight-hour working day are hard to imagine for the workers who are in the unorganized sector and private firms (like automobile, IT, finance and education sectors).

In the neoliberal era, as the onslaught of the imperialist forces are increasing on the third world nations, heroic working class struggles are setting examples for oppressed peoplesall over the world. One recent example is the workers’ movement of Maruti-Suzuki plant in Manesar. The tussles between the management and the workers have started since the workers have initiated the independent labour union in Manesar plant. The workers demanded the right to form the labour union as per Indian law. They opposed the cruel exploitation under contract labour system, demanded proper salary and legally entitled rest time. They demanded to be respected as human beings. Above all, they built unity between permanent and contract workers. Ram Niwas, member of Maruti Suzuki labour union narrates the cruel exploitations and working environment in Manesar plant. 7 min for tea break, 20 mins for food and 5 mins for natural calls and two day salary cut for one day leave. The workers were squeezedhard to produce one car in 44 minutes.As the movement against contractualization of workers intensified, the state in nexus with the company management had to use their machinery to stop the movement by brute force and devious tactics.

In order to crush the workers resistance to this capitalistic oppression, Maruti management has orchestrated a planned violence inside the factory in July 2012. They sent in hundreds of rowdie elements into the factory, set fire to a part of the plant, and burnt to death Awinesh Kumar Dev, a HR officer who was sympathetic to workers.Then the Maruti management gave a false complaint on the workers regarding the death of Awanish Kumar Dev and got 148 Maruti workers arrested. In March 17th 2017, a session court in Gurgaon delivered the sentence in the case, convicting 31 workers and acquitting 117. Among the 31 workers, 13 were given life imprisonment, in which 12 areoffice-bearers in thelabour union.

Each step in the court proceedings made it clear that the violence of 2012 was a conspiracy hatched together by Maruti management, the Haryana police andgovernment. According to the lawyer Rebecca John who appeared for the workers, there is no concrete evidence against the 13 workers within the judgement. Meanwhile, the Haryana government’s public prosecutor demands death sentence for the workers, even without solid evidence, saying “Our industrial growth has dipped, FDI has dried up. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is calling for ‘Make in India,’ but such incidents are a stain on our image”. It is to benoted that the then Gujarat CM Modi went toJapan to meet Suzuki chairman asking to havethe factory in Gujarat assuring him that there will not be any workers’ protest. Such open betrayer of working class is now the Prime Minister, with his party in power in both centre and state. While the Supreme Court pointed towards “collective conscience” for hanging Afzal Guru, the sessions court inHaryana has now convicted the workers to satisfy the conscience of the global capital.

The workers inspite of severe repression has carried on with their fight in Manesar which shows the revolutionary spirit and unity of the working class beyond their divisions of “permanent” and “contract”. Thousands of workers and progressive organizations in India and other countries came up in solidarity with the convicted workers. Workers from over 30 unions immediately came and joined in solidarity, which include all the 4 Maruti plants, Bellsonica, FMI, Honda HMSI, Rico, FCC Rico, Munjal Showa, Munjal Kiriu, Daikin AC and many others. Central trade unions and other workers organizations also joined in solidarity. On the date before the punishments were declared on 17 March by the Court, thousands of workers from Gurgaon to Bawal boycotted factory lunch and dinner in solidarity with the struggle for justice for Maruti Suzuki workers.

The onslaught on the workers should be seen in connection with snatching from the people their basic rights and organized loot of cheap labour andnatural resources by the corporates and their Indian lackeys with help of the state machinery in the name of development and globalization.This is the same case for different sections of people as well,farmer suicides and large-scale migrations due to loss of livelihood,lay-offs in IT sector (25k workers from TCS and now 20k workers in CTS),commericlaization of education leading to fee hikes and ‘financial autonomy’ in public institutions, pushing cashless economy in the interest of finance capital and so on. Futher, implementation of automation and artificial intelligence as part of the fourth industrial revolution in manufacturing and service sectors will lead to wiping out 69 percent of the existing jobs. Even the recent Economic Survey 2016-17 reveals that the inequalityinIndia has deepened in the neo-liberal era. It can be easily understood that the neo-liberal policies are the root cause for such problems faced by large sections of people in our country.