Putting Dignity in Practice for All

By Donald Lee, President, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Dear Friends,

As we come together on October 17 this year, our focus will be on the theme, Decent Work and Social Protection: Putting Dignity in Practice for All1.

Our fight against poverty has been guided by the simple maxim that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.

When human dignity is denied, it weakens and threatens the very foundation of human rights.

Each and every one of us is entitled to be accepted, respected, and treated as equals by others.

Yet, for millions of people today, human dignity is denied and violated when they are forced to live in poverty and suffer unacceptable indignities, discrimination, and crushing deprivations.

Human dignity is denied and violated most glaringly in the workplace when people are denied opportunities for employment through unimaginative, under-funded and non-inclusive economic and social policies and programmes.

Often, even when they find employment, they are underpaid, overworked, and must endure unsafe conditions without access to even the most rudimentary social protection.

I am reminded of Ashura Onesmo, a member of ATD Fourth World in Tanzania, who breaks stones in a rock quarry for a living. The work is physically exhausting and dangerous, and the pay is too low for her and her family to escape poverty. She works at this job because she has no choice.

We must ensure that Ashura and anyone wishing to work has access to decent work.

ATD founder Joseph Wresinski wisely observed, “Every worker is a partner whose efforts feed into the efforts and well-being of everyone.”2

An equitable society acknowledges that each person’s work is important and valuable and contributes to the well-being of society at large. A society built upon the principles of decent work enables us to fully recognize the contribution of all people, especially people living in poverty.

Decent work can overcome poverty because it ensures all workers receive a fair income, their rights are protected and they have social protection. It is a source of dignity, and it creates a strong foundation for peace, social justice, and greater equality.

Creating decent work opportunities is therefore an imperative in the fight to end poverty, and we must act in solidarity to ensure that decent work is available to everyone.

Putting Dignity in Practice for All
Poster for this year’s October 17 – World Day for Overcoming Poverty
  1. Selected after an inclusive consultation process with people with lived experience of poverty as well as their allies and friends around the world.
  2. Original translation:  Every worker is a comrade whose efforts feed into the efforts and well-being of everyone.
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