Our Communities Voices, direct to you, the UN
On Wednesday 8th March 2023, Patricia Bailey from ATD Fourth World UK, and Rahwa Beyene from RAPAR, spoke on behalf of GRIPP to the 72nd PSWG of the CESCR Review in Geneva. In the three-hour session we witnessed presentations from other civil society groups from across the UK and listened to the questions from members of the committee as evidence of violations of economic social and cultural rights in the UK was shared and scrutinised.
In amongst this 3-hour session of hard data and a lot of legal speak – Patricia and Rahwa led the Committee members on a different journey. Through the words and voices that came direct from our communities, using poetry and immersive visualisation, we invited committee members to share the burden of our labour in challenging poverty as a human rights violation.
This is what they said:
Please close your eyes to immerse yourself in our voices:
It’s feeling the sickly cold rush of anxiety seize hold of your being at the sound of a knock on the door.
Poverty is a stigma that haunts you like a stench – it stains everything you touch.
As a child, the world seems like a [toystore] catalogue,
full of shiny promises for everyone else, but you.
You can’t figure out the secret handshake to enter the “good enough to deserve stuff club.”
Growing up you find out that even if you escape,
you don’t belong on the other side.
You still don’t know that secret handshake.
…You can open you’re eyes now…
Hello, my name is Patricia, I am here to represent GRIPP – Growing Rights Instead of Poverty Partnership and this is my colleague Rahwa.
As individuals, and as member of a community with direct experience of the violation of economic, social and cultural rights, we have had to overcome many barriers to speak directly to you today. I ask you to please listen closely as this is a unique opportunity for you to hear our important voice.
The GRIPP submission is written by 4 grassroots organisations, ATD Fourth World UK, Intisaar, RAPAR and Thrive Teesside. We have nearly 100 years of cumulative knowledge of the direct experience of poverty as a human rights violation.
This work has been developed and created by us, grassroots researchers. It is our communities who own this report.
We believe that lived experience must be included as a key part of the evidence to inform systematic and positive change in people’s lives. Bringing this together with learnt knowledge of human rights, we realise and generate the power to drive that real change.
Our voices today and in our report are being given directly to you, they are not veiled in carefully chosen statistics, nor are they filtered through an organisation’s report writing process.
These voices come directly from our communities to you:
“As I look at the money in my hand
It shrinks with every passing day
The dole and the politicians do not
Understand, so I will sit here and
Slowly fade away”
“We can feed the poor, give warmth and shelter in crisis, but we do not enable them to crawl or lift themselves out of poverty. We alleviate the symptom, but the system will make sure they do not advance. It is not the poor people who are at fault but the control of the system by the hierarchy that will make sure that they cannot leave their social standing. If you do not fit the criteria you are lost amongst the multitude of others left by the wayside. Then it is do as I say, or you will receive nothing.”
“For many, Mental Health is a taboo subject and yet if one person is brave enough to take the leap and ask a support for their Mental illness, they are confronted with a service which is European central and it does not take into an account the diverse of the individual background and their cultural need. Providing a short-term solution such as a project which is culturally appropriate for six/eight weeks. It is not going to solve the vast problems and issues of mental illness. We ask you to urge the government to look at this and provide holistic service which is culturally-appropriate and integrated to the wider mental health services in the country.”
The UK Government must provide disaggregated data on reducing mental health inequalities and how they ensure that policies and practices in mental health services are culturally appropriate for those receiving and providing care?
“We are not only deprived of financial independent whilst waiting for our asylum claim to be processed but we must wait a long time thus we are losing our energy, our hope, and a chance to make our life better. I waited for 18 years to be granted leave to remain, now I worry that I would not get a job and be useful. This is depressing.”
In the UK most people seeking asylum are banned from working and are forced to live in poverty. We argue that all people seeking asylum must have the right to work. Governments should help people who do not find such work by providing education and training.
“Having your children removed by the state is even worse than being raped, something that I’ve also gone through. When you’re in poverty and you grew up in care yourself, you’re eventually dumped out of the system and no one supports you to become a good parent. Children removed from their parents’ care have their trust betrayed again and again. They become anxious and afraid to cuddle. In care, children can be completely neglected and feel like they had to drag themselves up without help. It’s state-sponsored emotional abuse.”
Families in poverty are often subjected to harsh and disproportionate interventions that are discriminatory and driven by a concept of risk-aversion that is inconsistent and fails to sufficiently consider the harm done by removing children. This harm includes insufficient regulations for the accommodation of 16 to 18-year-olds in care, which makes them vulnerable to grooming and trafficking.
Through this process we have worked together experiencing in real time the universality and interdependency of our economic, social and cultural rights and the way in which poverty hurts all of our rights.
For this submission we have focused on a few Rights in turn, but we know that violations under all of the Articles are happening in all of our communities.
It is important to appreciate and reflect upon the thoughts and comments of people who are suffering due to rising levels of poverty and widening gaps of inequality. The reasons why so many in our forgotten communities are living in challenging circumstances and unable to realise their potential is the direct consequence of the system they were born into.
This system is being maintained by the UK Government – it is working to keep our communities poor, to keep us ill, to keep us isolated. We are blamed for our ill health. We are blamed for not working. We are blamed for our broken families. We are blamed for our poverty – when in fact it is the state that is denying us these rights.
The process of creating this submission has been burdened with the complexities and chaos of living in poverty, as many involved grapple with our rights being violated on a daily basis.
Now that burden has been shared with you, we ask that you read the GRIPP report again and consider our voices, and the questions we need you to ask the Government for us.