India, like many other developing countries, has a robust civil society with many nonprofit organisations actively involved in efforts to reduce poverty and improve living conditions of the most poor. These nonprofits have an ongoing struggle chipping away at the social injustices in society. So what is social justice? How can you contribute to creating a better world for all the world’s people?
Social justice is the acknowledgement that currently, not all people experience the world in ways that are equal. This acknowledgement of unequal power then gives rise to a movement that advocates for the rights of all people to have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice and opportunity. In other words, social justice advocates for a broad vision of an ideal society, in which no one race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity nor language group is singled out for oppression, nor enjoys special privileges.
Shamillah Wilson is our very own if i could… thought leader on the subject of social justice and will be leading our next development immersion tour Spring with Spirit which has a strong focus around deepening an understanding of courage and social justice. Shamillah is a social entrepreneur and an activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her work over the years includes support to civil society organizations, social justice movements and also development organizations in advancing social justice, and more in particular women’s rights. She has worked internationally and travelled widely, with India being one of the countries close to her heart. She is committed to unleashing the power, purpose and potential of young people, entrepreneurs and leaders. She is a qualified Life Coach, as well as a Design Thinking Coach. She co-edited ‘Defending our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation’ and is the author of ‘Waking Up – how I woke up my inner activist to create a bigger life’.
For Shamillah personally, social justice is a way of looking at the world. In other words, being able to see the different realities of different people and acknowledge that it is not just that way. That in fact there are certain people that are more privileged, advantaged and have greater power and opportunity to attain a life with dignity at the first level, and secondly a life that they have reason to value. With this lens though, it means recognizing that there is a need to speak out, give voice to and move resources to those who struggle more based on the fact that they fall outside of a dominant power group. Whether it be because they are women, because of their race, class, age or even ability.
Her own journey with social justice started in 1985 when she started high school. This was a turning point year in student activism in South Africa with students taking up the baton for resisting and challenging apartheid as many of the liberation movements had been banned. At that time, Shamillah remembers going from rally to rally, not immediately understanding what was happening, but realizing that it was important. This she feels was the turning point for her.
Subsequent to that, she got involved in movements for gender equality. Living in an environment where as a young woman one never felt completely safe and witnessing the types of abuses that women encounter on a daily basis made her question the situation a lot and eventually shaped her understanding of the world. It was when she got to university and started studying social justice theory and joined activist movements for gender justice, that she found the language for her past experiences and outrage at the injustices she had witnessed. This also gave her the platform and spaces where she could be part of more collective efforts to challenge injustice. She has been very involved for many years with women’s and human rights movements and continues to openly name herself as an activist.
Like many people, Shamillah enjoys travelling – whether it be for work or for pleasure which makes her a perfect Experience Facilitator to lead our development immersion tour. She is an inquisitive and engaging leader and experienced facilitator and is able to engage and guide groups in conversations that inspire insight and compassion. She has always loved working with people and appreciates difference and diversity. She is interested in how people experience power and respond to it. She has learnt that it is never just a matter of someone being in a position where they experience power over another and that often the minor (and not so minor) subversions are there.
As she has been very involved in activism for many years as a feminist one of the principles was always to learn from others. Shamillah is passionate about leading this tour and opportunities for engagement, learning and sharing. This is not voyeuristic, nor extractive. Social justice travel is about satisfying a genuine curiosity about the realities of others, through their eyes and lens, with an open heart and a compassionate spirit. It’s an exchange in the form of dialogue with other activists and travellers in a particular context to find out their strategies, challenges and also victories to advance the broader goals for wellbeing, justice and equality.
She strongly feels that the Spring with Spirit social justice tour will acknowledge that, even as we are entering different contexts, already there is a form of privilege and power. It is also about finding out from the spaces we are able to enter into, what is most valuable in the exchange for us to leave behind.
Vidushi Malhotra, our New Delhi based Experience Facilitator, will also be travelling with our group. Vidushi is currently pursuing a masters degree in Social Development and is a seasoned traveller and social entrepreneur. She has curated and executed various projects in India, South Africa and Bhutan. She is also a founding member at Startup Safari, a travel immersion program that connects young global entrepreneurial minds to the fastest growing startup ecosystems around the world.
There is so much we can learn from others, and about ourselves and the world we live in. So spend this spring with Shamillah and Vidushi and experience the magnificence of India while deepening your understanding of courage and social justice.