#GetUpStandUp Marina Serra International Training Course, June 2019. Thoughts and observations about my experience in the course
Helping is never easy; an act of solidarity from our perspective could have no impact if not even further damage the situation, therefore, being well-informed and thoroughly investigating the origin of the problem is of paramount importance for developing effective strategies. Being a volunteer activist seeing the injustices that surround us and wanting to push for change and growth in our communities presents many challenges and risks, according to the activists of “Sfrutta Zero”.
Sfrutta Zero is a group of activists from the town of Diritti a Sud in the Nardò province of southern in Italy encountered a situation where immigrants worked in conditions similar to that of slavery, where workers from Africa were hired to labour in camps under inhumane conditions, a situation that encompasses basic human rights issues, working conditions, housing, health, etc. The members of Sfrutta Zero brought the situation in Diritti a Sud to the attention of both citizens and local governments and although they managed to move forward, improving the situation of workers in the area, these types of labour violations continue in various parts of Italy and around the world. This invites us to rethink what we all consume every day and how this consumption enables and perpetuates this type of practice.
Sfrutta Zero now promotes the production of sauce using organic tomatoes, grown without the use of chemicals, in a clean and fair distribution chain which benefits all the participants, offering the opportunity to migrants and locals for a fair income and access to basic rights. In order to do this, they have had to confront the corporations and a system that protects them. By putting in their time and work and creating networks among other activists who are doing the same they have managed to create a collective of activists, farmers, merchants, and citizens involved in a cause.
This situation should cause us to reflect on the production system we have and how it impacts human rights. It has reminded us that the illegal immigrant, the migrant, the refugee, are only a consequence of a system that supports large corporations and not individuals. We become part of this system the moment we buy products from these big companies.
Dialogue,is also a kind of activism: pointing out injustice and inviting others to think about the problems that our communities and the world are facing. The major obstacle is often the public lack of interest, however the members of the “OPEM project and Street Debate methodologies” realizing this problem began a campaign where they approach people on the street with the use of posters with provocative phrases, awakening the curiosity of people and using this opportunity to start the debate.
The course at Marina Serra as well as other programs of this type are of considerable value and importance not only for the reflection which the workshops invite but also for the opportunity to hear how others have overcome the challenges and obstacles in their projects. This encourages us to imagine and create new strategies that can work in our locality. The course also provides an invaluable opportunity for networking with others who may be involved in causes similar to ours.