Chapter 1

Understanding how change can happen

Throughout history, people just like you who have seen injustice in society have taken action to change the world. 

Understanding and remembering the stories and struggles of those who came before us can help us learn from their mistakes and successes, as well as inspire us to build on what they have already achieved. 

Below are some examples of recent struggles for liberation from across Europe. 

Les Gilets Noirs – France 

Calling themselves the ‘largest collective of undocumented migrants’, Les Gilets Noir organises peaceful, large-scale direct actions to raise awareness of the French immigration system, including how it detains more people than anywhere else in Europe. The group makes demands on the French government to change its policies and fights for migrants rights and racial justice.

Disabled People Against the Cuts – UK

DPAC was created in 2010 to protest cuts to social security enacted by the Conservative-led government after the financial crash of 2008. The group organises against government cuts, austerity and erosion of human rights, and demands full rights and equality for disabled people. According to the campaign’s website: ‘It is for everyone who refuses to stay silent about the injustices delivered by wealthy politicians on ordinary people and their lives.’ 

Zlarin, a plastic-free island – Croatia

In 2018, a group of young citizens on the Croatian island of Zlarin decided to take action to reduce the use of single-use plastic in their community. They got their local authority on board and started talking to supermarkets, restaurants and bars, convincing them to sign up to the Zlarin Without Plastic Charter. Today all businesses on the island are following the Charter. 

Right2Water ECI – Europe

A European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is an instrument that gives citizens the chance to put a topic on the political agenda of the EU by collecting one million signatures in seven EU Member States. In May 2012, the Right2Water campaign was the first to achieve this goal. Its campaign brought the human right to water and sanitation to the attention of the Commission. In December 2020 the revised Drinking Water Directive of the EU ensured higher quality standards for water intended for human consumption.

Pro-Choice Campaigns – Poland 

In response to the Polish constitutional tribunal ruling that would result in a near total ban on abortion, campaigners came together to organise mass protests across the country. The women and their allies blockaded major roads, disrupted church services, as well as organised advice and funding for international travel for women to receive abortions in other countries.  

Ban Unpaid Internships – Belgium and Europe

The European Youth Forum lodged a legal complaint on the issue of unpaid internships in Belgium. The complaint sought to challenge and ultimately change Belgian legislation, seeking a legal decision that will set a precedent across Europe and beyond to make this unfair and discriminatory practice illegal.

#MeToo movement – worldwide

in 2017, women responded to the news that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had been accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse by sharing their own stories using the hashtag #MeToo. It became a global movement and sparked significant change on the policy level. In November 2018, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted its first resolution exclusively dedicated to the fight against sexual harassment. Two years later, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) approved the Violence and Harassment Convention and Recommendation. This established the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. The #MeToo movement shows how digital activism can drive change in society.

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