Some thoughts on World Day of Social Justice

Some thoughts on World Day of Social Justice

February 20, 2019

In 2007 the United Nations dubbed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice. About 150 years earlier, it was Marx and Engels who solidified the concept of Social Justice in contemporary consciousness. Their socialist doctrines, no matter what one may think of them today, threw working and living conditions onto the centre of the political stage, in a more coherent and comprehensive way than ever before. So, what does social justice look like today and how can we work towards it?


The United Nations lays out various aspects of what makes up Social Justice, two in particular are economic justice and  equality of opportunities. The first is defined as “the existence of opportunities for meaningful work and employment and the dispensation of fair reward”. So the first question is, do those meaningful jobs exist? It looks like they do, for various people in myriad ways, but I believe it’s the search for them which poses a problem for our society. We suffer from a lack of exposure to meaningful work and the avenues you can go down to pursue them. The opportunity to explore different careers is not nearly as vast as one may hope. While most children are aware of the possibility of becoming a police officer, firefighter, or teacher they may not even be aware that they can grow up to be a greeting card writer or an exhibition designer. The careers that children are exposed at a young age can be fairly narrow and based on what their parents do, and what they see in the media. Before you know it young people are whisked off to university or into a trade without adequate exploration of what careers are out there. Now this is not to say that one cannot find meaningful work when they adopt the same career as their parent, quite the contrary, as that could strengthen the familial bond and be found to be deeply rewarding to some. Rather, I am suggesting that more ought to be done to expose young people to the various careers that exists within a sphere that they are already interested in. But even if we can achieve this goal and feel that people entering the workforce (or changing careers) are sufficiently aware of the options around them, it means nothing if we do not address the second of proposed topics for this piece: equality of opportunities.


Imagine that a young person, finds a career that is deeply meaningful to them, they acquire the training needed to be successful in it, and then they send off their CVs. On the review of their CV - a hiring manager puts them in the ‘no’ pile because their name is of certain origin or the young person makes it to an interview but the interviewer feels that our young person’s accent is too ‘rough’. These illustrations are barriers to equality of opportunity. The notion here is that morally arbitrary characteristic (the colour of one’s skins, whether one had free lunches in school, or one's country of origin) should not play a part in deciding what opportunities a person has in life. While we have laws against not hiring someone based on race or creed, what do we do when these barriers are internalised by an individual? So our same young person, after finding the career they want and acquiring the training, they don’t send off their CV because deep down they don’t feel like they look or talk the part of the role they are applying for. This type of self internalised bias is much more common than one may think, the term ‘impostor syndrome’ being coined to discuss it. This is a problem that is combated at both the individual level and the societal level. At the individual level this means having access to  the resources to understand that morally arbitrary characteristics are just that - arbitrary. The societal remedy being having role models at the ready from various backgrounds, having initiatives to maintain a high level of diversity, all while also ensuring resources are in place.


I am proud to be an employee of an organisation that is working on both of these aspects of Social Justice. UpRising’s Fastlaners programme allows young people to have exposure to various career paths and roles that might be hard to discover while also teaching young people how to best prepare for and get hired for the jobs they want. The Leadership Programme, among many other things, works to build the confidence of its participants and to teach them the background that they come from are not the defining aspects of their person. UpRising empowers young people to further develop their character in a way that further the projects of Social Justice and individual fulfilment.


By Channing Walbridge

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

*All opinions in this piece are my own*