This month, I had the great opportunity to attend Bertha Justice Initiative Global Convening 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. The convening brought together lawyers, who are also Bertha Justice Fellows, from around the world. We all come from different countries and are working on different human rights issues, but we learned from each other’s experiences. It was also great that I could spend time with my ERI colleagues who are also Bertha Justice Fellows, but work in different offices. I am in our Thailand office, but we also have Fellows in the U.S, Peru, and Myanmar. We chatted, listened, discussed while we tried to get know each other better.
I come from Thailand. After I graduated with a bachelor of law, I was interested in working at a human rights organization, so I started working with non-governmental organization for stateless people in Thailand. I decided to work with NGOs because if I work in government, I believe I cannot make real change. I prefer helping people directly. In 2016 I started my work as a Bertha Justice Fellow at ERI.
There were many sessions in every day, for example, the protection of Human Rights Defenders, dealing with trauma (we explored self-care and resilience. We also discussed our experiences on how we balance our hard work and life, and how we can relax), gender equality, and a women’s working group. Only women participated in the women’s working group, and we discussed many concerns women lawyers face. A one hour session was not enough for us women to talk about the many issue we confront every day.
For me, my favorite sessions are The Use of Video in Legal campaigns and Activism and Video as Evidence. The facilitators showed us how to use video as an evidence in a court, how to take a video in a real situation. We learned about focusing on what is important to shoot and what perspectives are most important when filming. When we practiced shooting videos, I learned that it is not easy to take three-minute video which include enough information to use as an evidence in a court. Very interesting!!
We also had exchange visit with four organizations in the area. I chose Ndifuna Ukwazi. Ndifuna Ukwazi is a non-profit activist organization and law center that combines research, political organizing, litigation and other legal tools in campaigns to advance urban land justice in Cape Town. They showed us three videos about urban housing situation in Cape Town. The videos were about black people who were evicted from their houses and have to move to live in slums outside the city which no clinics, shops, lack of public transportation and far from work place. Another video told story of a woman who can afford to rent apartment in Cape Town, but she cannot cook in her room and has to buy quite expensive take away food instead.
These stories made me realized that even though apartheid was finished, poor black citizen still face unequal life. Poor people in other countries, including my own, Thailand, have the same problem.
Even though this journey has ended, my journey in life is not over yet, every step of travel is learning: learning from lessons, people, history and experiences.