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...And Social Justice For All

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Published: 4 Feb 2010

The McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building is taking rights-based community practices out of the social work textbooks and putting them to work in the streets of Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

A nine-year-old disabled Palestinian girl couldn’t go to school because she couldn’t climb the stairs in her apartment building. Across the border in Israel, a municipality sued residents for not fixing sewage leaks. Meanwhile, a group of elderly Jordanian women had gone blind and lost hope of ever seeing again.

These stories may not spring to mind when one hears the words “Middle East” and “conflict,” but such problems are a consuming force in many people’s lives. The good news? With the right kind of teamwork, these woes can be fixed.

A coalition of social work agencies, for example, built a bridge to give the Palestinian girl access to transportation directly from her fourth floor home. The Israeli neighbourhood learned about its civic rights and, in doing so, discovered that the leaking pipes were the responsibility of the municipality. The elderly Jordanian women received medical check-ups, which revealed they just needed glasses.

These solutions came about through the interdisciplinary efforts of a network of lawyers and social workers in Palestine, Israel and Jordan. Although these people may come from cultures long divided by conflict, they’re united by a dedication to outreach, public education and policy research. They share something else, too: They were brought together by the McGill School of Social Work.

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