03 Jul 2024

The power of listening in community empowerment and human rights

Asking people what they need, and listening is an important principle in the human rights space. Empowering communities to make decisions about their lives must be central to everything we do.

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Walk Free’s Director of Business and Human Rights Serena Grant and the Leader of the Gammadda Movement Chevaan Daniel visit children in rural Rideemaliyadda, Sri Lanka.

Children in rural Rideemaliyadda in Sri Lanka will soon be able to get to school without risking their lives during lengthy monsoon seasons, with a new bridge being built to connect communities.

This project is part of the Gammadda movement, which aims to alleviate poverty, uplift social and economic standards, enhance livelihoods, and improve cultural diversity and community dialogue.

“Whether that is building a bridge or introducing new laws to combat human trafficking and modern slavery – we need to listen to people whose lives have been impacted,” Walk Free’s Director of Business and Human Rights Serena Grant said.

“It’s about looking at the opportunity that’s there and looking at the levels of inequality because while it’s wonderful to go to villages and help to build the community in the village, there also needs to be economic opportunity and that to me is something that’s really critical.”

“We’ve heard so many stories about people who think they’re getting a good job opportunity, but it turns out to be completely different from what they’ve been offered, and they end up in a situation of exploitation or even forced labour.

“A key thing that can make a difference is trying to drive more equality. Driving more fair and safe jobs, so that that economic opportunity is there.”

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Photo Credit: Serena Grant.

“I was really struck by how involved the Gammadda team is with the community and how much they had listened to the community to understand what they needed.

“That’s something that we at Walk Free and many people in the anti-slavery movement are trying to do is to really listen to the people whose lives have been impacted, so we can understand what needs to change and what are the solutions.”

Photo Credit: Serena Grant.