World Day of Social Justice: In Conversation with a Grassroots Social Justice Activist

20 Feb

In 2007, the United Nations’ General Assembly declared February 20th as the World Day of Social Justice. On this day, each member state celebrates activities promoting gender equality, promoting the rights of indigenous people and migrants and removing barriers and challenging discrimination people face.

On a day committed to encouraging and celebrating social justice action, I was able to speak to a womyn who has devoted much of her life committed to grassroots social justice and making noise. Daniela Mergarten is part of the speaker’s bureau Voices from the Street, which involves people with direct experience as leaders in public education, advocating for social change and breaking down stigma.

On what Social Justice Work Means:

I came from an abusive background and there was limited support and information available at the time. I lost my whole family to violence and had to leave home at the age of 16. I always felt appreciative of the simple kindnesses people gave me along the way. As soon as I got healthier, I knew I wanted to give back.  Due to my experience, I have always felt connected and committed to speaking out on violence against womyn, poverty, homelessness and mental health.

On when she first became involved with Social Justice Work:

I didn’t know about feminism back then, and I started to notice and get involved in the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. That was back when they were sending buses of womyn up to Ottawa. It was the first time I saw womyn in unity and the power of womyn. It was womyn working together for a common cause.

women's rights mural

On a highlight from doing Social Justice Work:

One of my biggest moments was when I got to go to the “World’s Urban Forum” in Vancouver. During the forum I presented a report that I had worked on about poverty and homelessness. It was really important to present womyn’s voices as they were. I was also able to see womyn from countries all over the world, and I noticed our problems here aren’t just our problems. They are world-wide. I was inspired by seeing the difference womyn were making in their own communities all over.

On what inspires her Social Justice Work:

Being a part of Voices from the Street has given me hope. Hope we can change and hope we can connect. The more I go out, the more I see youth out doing social justice work. We are not leaving youth with much, and I think it is important to validate the work that youth are doing.  Youth will kick some but and I will be right there behind them.

On World Social Justice Day, Nellie’s celebrates the grassroots work womyn, such as Daniela, do in the community to promote social justice and challenge barriers. Nellie’s is committed to social justice work that is informed by the experiences of womyn and children.  The Social Justice Committee is committed to developing policies in areas of violence, poverty and oppression, speak on and participate in broader social justice issues and work through community partnerships and coalitions to achieve social justice for all womyn and children. The Social Justice Committee is one way people can get involved in social justice work, which recruits in July of every year.


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