World Day of Social Justice

By: Kelsey Sunstrum

Defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada as giving “individuals and groups fair treatment and an equitable share of the benefits of society,” social justice is an important concept in local and global culture.

Since 2007, the United Nations has celebrated February 20th as the World Day of Social Justice as a way of promoting social justice. Member States are encouraged to participate by taking action in ways that are in line with the World Summit for Social Development. Though justice is the overarching goal of the day, the UN suggests concentrating on activities that focus on improving world poverty; the amelioration of employment and work for all; and gender equity.

The World Summit for Social Development took place in Copenhagen in 1995 and was then the largest ever gathering of international leaders. Important decisions were reached at the summit that would impact the future of development. It was agreed that it was necessary to shift attention to the impacts on humanity in terms of development. By aligning themselves with the summit, the participating countries made a commitment to take serious action to rectify world poverty; create jobs; and support social integration.

An example of progress in the field of social justice is the adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization in 2008. This declaration implicates 182 Member States to abide by the policies outlined in the document which seek to advance social justice in the fields of work and employment around the world. The report ensures fairness through “social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.”

It is of utmost importance to teach and promote the goal of social justice, though the task is certainly not easy. The Guardian put together a list of helpful resources for anyone looking for tools in teaching social justice to all age groups. The resources are practical and relevant, addressing actual current global issues, while encouraging children and adolescents to give back to their local and global community.

Oxfam has many such programs, two of which are Food for Thought and Change the World in Eight Steps. Food for Thought is a programme about the global food system that uses activities to guide children and youth to think critically about the implications of the practices of the food system, and suggestions for ways to take action to improve nutritional social justice. Change the World in Eight Steps takes a similar approach to explain and further explore the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs were selected to be focus for development starting in 2001 and extending to the year 2015. The goals include eradicating world poverty; bettering maternal health; and working towards environmental sustainability.

There are numerous organizations across the country working towards social justice, including the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). We encourage you to find out how you can contribute to social justice in your local community by getting involved with a local Club of CFUW, and/or with other organizations such as ACORN Canada in your area. For listings of Ottawa charities and non-profit organizations, check out the following links:

–         Volunteer Ottawa

–         Ottawa Charity Village Volunteer Opportunities

–         Ottawa Charities & Fundraisers Guide

–         Ottawa Charitable & Community Organizations

Black History Month is also in February, so we also encourage you to take advantage of the excellent web resource by Teaching for Change which contains a myriad of free informational resources on the Civil Rights Movement.

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