Debbie Stothard on Global Solidarity in Times of Crisis – APHEDA People
Throughout her decades of activism, Debbie Stothard has seen the power of global solidarity during times of crisis.
During the Tiananmen Square protests, the 1988 Burmese Uprising, the People’s Power revolution in the Philippines, the Sri Lankan Civil War, and Thailand’s 1992 Black May, Debbie was working through her student union at the NSW Institute of Technology to build ties of solidarity between migrant communities in Sydney and the wider Australian community. In times of conflict and disaster, she says:
It is incredibly empowering and inspiring to know that whatever is happening, that there are people out there, who may not even speak your own language, who are trying to do something for you and who care about the situation.
Debbie’s organising led her to move to Thailand, where in 1996 she would establish the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN), which works to build the power of social movements, leaders, and activists in Myanmar to fight for human rights and democracy. Debbie was banned from Myanmar for thirteen years, but through ALTSEAN she was still able to support activists in their fight for democracy.
Global solidarity means that grassroots activists who are struggling against some of the most horrific human rights violations understand that they are not alone.
Today, with the Coronavirus health and economic crisis hitting all countries and communities, Debbie says that “we need to understand that everyone’s well-being and safety is based on equality. We need to think about solidarity not in terms of one group supporting another group, but in terms of all of us supporting each-other.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is a moment when a lot of people around the world, including people who enjoy political and economic stability, are starting to realise that none of their securities and comforts are guaranteed: they can be taken away at any time, all you need is bad politicians, bad decision-makers, and bad governments.
And while the Coronavirus pandemic does not discriminate between gender, nationality, or religion, already, Debbie says, we are seeing how governments are excluding some members of the community from health and economic protections; migrant workers, indigenous communities, and refugees:
Depriving people of access to health, which is a human right, and depriving them of the right to work, the right to a livelihood, depriving any group of their human rights, means that we are creating even greater threats to human security
For Debbie, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has always provided her with a network of activists, campaigners, and internationalists who share her values and hopes:
I remember the first time dropping by the Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA office thirty years ago, it has always been a place where we can meet, where we can work with other activists and members, and where we can get help to link up to Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA member organisations, especially unions, to build solidarity and support.
That solidarity, Debbie says, has continued. “As part of the Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA network, we are all part of a community. We get something back from being engaged in solidarity, and that’s incredibly important.”
Solidarity in Times of Crisis
By becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and giving a monthly donation, you will be supporting our network of partner organisations and unions as the organise to protect workers’ rights and human rights during times of crisis.