Tune in for this special guest post by SPH student Alyssa Mouton, who spends some of her time working with our Global Health Coordinator at the Taubman Health Sciences Library:
What comes immediately to mind when you hear the phrase “social justice”? Is it land rights for indigenous peoples in South America? Anti-stigmatization campaigns for HIV positive people in South Africa? Policy efforts to ensure access to healthcare for all US citizens? This broad concept encompasses a wide range of lived experiences of inequity, oppression and the struggle for dignity and human rights worldwide. In recognition of this, February 20 is recognized annually as World Day of Social Justice.
While serving as a Health Extension Agent with the US Peace Corps in Mali, W. Africa from 2008-2010, I worked and lived in a 500-person community struggling to deal with both the external influences of globalization as well as local challenges like access to clean water and endemic disease. During my efforts to help the community evaluate their own strengths, challenges and community development priorities, I found multiple, overlapping inequities which posed a challenge to the implementation and sustainability of development initiatives. I especially struggled to deal with the gendered oppression I observed and experienced. Today, as a Master of Public Health/Master of Public Policy student here at U of M, I carry a respect for the seriousness of the consequences of social injustice for community development and population health.
While working with the Peace Corps, I had the opportunity to learn about the world of humanitarian work, international economic development and a multitude of approaches to community human development projects. The most prominent, worldwide effort currently combining these elements is the Millenium Development Goals program led by the United Nations.
The observation of the World Day of Social Justice serves to remind us of the opportunity to both learn more about social justice issues and projects worldwide, and also to consider the injustices and inequities we can be part of addressing in our own communities. To explore and visualize global development indicators, check out:
- World Bank E-Atlas of Global Development
- The e-Atlas lets you map more than 175 indicators for up to 200 countries over time including creating two maps to compare progress.
- Gapminder uses data visualization software to support sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
There are many opportunities to learn about and get involved in social justice issues at the University of Michigan, including:
- The Program on Intergroup Relations’ upcoming “Understanding Race” series.
- Ongoing social justice/service-learning opportunities at the Ginsberg Center
For those of you already involved in social justice-focused projects, groups and research, I thank you for your efforts (and the global community echoes my sentiments!).