Key Correspondence – UCD School of Social Justice Graduate Conference

October 13, 2014

On Saturday the 4th October, in the run up to the 25th anniversary of Equality Studies and Women’s Studies in UCD (and the 10th anniversary of the formation of the UCD School of Social Justice) the graduate students of the school organised the UCD Social Justice Graduate Conference. The focus of the conference was:

Challenging Injustice in Ireland: learning from the past, actions for the future.

The ambition of this graduate student led initiative was to take stock of the role of activism and research in achieving social justice in Ireland and identify future challenges and opportunities to create a more socially equal and egalitarian Ireland. The conference aimed to bring together a broad range of individuals and organisations working in the area of Social Justice.

 

The attendance at the conference was indeed an eclectic mix of academics, activists, musicians, students, professionals and journalists. Such a mix is not often found at conferences, which may be to the detriment of the formation of networks and transfer of knowledge and ideas. Often, during a conference, it can feel as though the same few ideas are recycled and repackaged, that each conference is an island, unattached to and unaffected by any other types of knowledge or activities. And yet, in reality, in the world in which we work, the opposite is true. All fields, particularly in global health, are interconnected and interwoven and to affect change in one field will result in changes in another. This conference, while small compared with many others, managed to represent that real world connection and gave a taste of what a conference can and, in this author’s opinion, should be. A place where knowledge, thoughts and ideas mingle and are spread not just downstream, but upstream, left-stream and right-stream.

 

The day was made up of a variety of workshop sessions. Each of the workshop sessions discussed equality and social justice in a different topic, e.g. health, advocacy, media etc., with a mixture of speakers including students, academics and professionals. Of particular interest to this author were the presentations by Dr. Mimi Doran (UCD School of Social Justice) on the topic of media literacy in vulnerable groups, Joan O’Donnell (Disability Federation of Ireland) on assessing the effectiveness of organisational advocacy and Anna Visser (UCD School of Social Justice) on state funding and its effect on advocacy and activism in civil society. This atmosphere of hope for change and determination to achieve it continued to the very end of the conference with Professor John Baker’s (Prof Emeritus UCD School of Social Justice) closing speech, in which he reminded everyone present that change could only occur if everyone continued to draw attention to inequalities in our worlds and continue to challenge them through collaboration, empowerment and social change.

 

It was into this wonderful atmosphere that the Irish Forum of Global Health Student Outreach Group (SOG) was invited to run a practice stand. The practice stand gave the SOG the opportunity to demonstrate their work and promote their unique role in Ireland as a student network led and run by students that promotes global health issues and encourages students to take an active role in advocacy and awareness raising. The practice stand received positive reception, with interest from students and professionals alike and opportunities to collaborate with new individuals and organisations. Being able to present the SOG and its work at such a conference marks an auspicious start to the year for the SOG and many thanks to Brynne Gilmore (SOG Chair, TCD Centre for Global Health) and Dr. Steve MacDonald (IFGH) for ensuring the participation of the SOG.

 

Written by: Chiedza McClean

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