Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

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Making Strides Toward Lasting Systems Change

By Michael Kourabas on November 17, 2021

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, we have witnessed many global systems fail those who depend on them most — rather than provide people with safety, stability, and freedom, they have often deepened inequity, injustice, and insecurity. And throughout 2021, COVID-19 has continued to intensify the existing inequities around the world.

In response, UUSC swiftly dispatched more than half a million dollars in additional emergency grants above our regular grantmaking budget to our global network of partners this past year. The goal of this infusion of funding: to alleviate some of the worst compounding effects of the pandemic. This helped to unburden many of our partners from having to divert resources away from their systemic change work to confront acute and ongoing crises.

Making strides toward lasting systems change sometimes includes removing unexpected obstacles in the path toward a better world. Throughout the year, these flexible funds helped grassroots organizations address the urgent and unanticipated needs arising from COVID-19 and other disasters, while keeping open the doors of opportunities for communities facing down oppression.

 Here are just a few highlights of what this year’s 38 additional grants accomplished.

In the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, COVID precautions meant that the demand for clean, safe water significantly increased, placing further strain on already limited supplies. Our partners Ecological Solutions Trust and Live & Learn Environmental Education used emergency support from UUSC to increase wash stations for community schools and purchase water tanks for preschools to help provide reliable and clean water for hand-washing.

In Central America, many of our migrant justice partners this year either expanded existing direct food assistance programs or started new ones as needed. For example, in Honduras, following the devastation from back-to-back hurricanes Eta and Iota, our partner Fundacion San Alonso Rodriguez was able to provide temporary housing in the Bajo Aguán region, which has for years been the epicenter of land conflicts, mining conflicts, and narcotrafficking. They were also able to make emergency food deliveries to 580 households.

In Mexico, the shelters run by our partners used UUSC funding to adapt operations for COVID-19 safety protocols, continuing to assist for those in migration with dignity.

In Burma, our partners provided supplies and teaching stipends at the Burmese refugee camp schools in Bangladesh.

In the United States, our partner the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project provided grocery and rent support, as well as urgently needed access to affirming mental health services to their members, unavailable or inaccessible elsewhere.

As an international human rights organization, UUSC plays a vital part in repairing harm, restoring hope, and completely reimagining the dominant systems that have privileged a few at the expense of many. At its heart, our work for systemic change is ultimately about the equitable redistribution of wealth and power.

Near the end of each year, when we ask ourselves what strides we have collectively made toward deep systems change, we reflect on how much we have strengthened the grassroots movements around the world.

Every action we take in support of those who face structural social and economic exclusion gets us closer to an equitable world for all. We know a better world is possible. Thank you for your commitment to our shared work, building new systems now that will prevent the human rights abuses of the future.

Photo Credit: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR)

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