The Tenets of Social Justice
Understanding Social Justice
The concept of social justice is based on the premise that all persons have an equal right to a dignified existence with that offers economic opportunity and a political voice. It provides the foundation for the value system that underlies the social work profession as a whole. If you are studying online to get your social work degree, understanding these tenets is incredibly important to your learning experience.
The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) has identified four tenets of social justice. Each of these is best understood in the context of our own lives.
You don’t have to look far to see examples of discrimination in the world around you. You see it each time an unmarried mother is denigrated in the news, an elderly person is ignored on the street, a homeless teenager is ostracized at school, and anyone who is “different” is viewed as being inferior in some way. Discrimination can also be political, as in the exclusion of third-party candidates from public debates and forums.
The most effective way to challenge discrimination is to recognize that our world is populated by diverse communities of unique individuals who each have some different to add to the conversation. With that comes understanding and cultural sensitivity. Communities tend to be tight-knit and insular, however, so gaining a true appreciation of diversity can be a challenge.
Distributing Resources Equitably
Here in the United States, there has been increasing discussion of income inequality. Much of the world has already been facing this phenomenon for years. Social justice tells us that resources should be shared by all, with those in greatest need getting help from those who have more. A proliferation of food banks, homeless shelters, and tent cities tells us the reality. Income inequality is growing.
Challenging Unjust Policies & Practices
Social workers have the responsibility to call attention to unfair practices in places of business, discriminatory policies in the economy, and unjust politics on the world stage. Increasing awareness is where changes start. Social workers can be highly effective advocates in championing for equal pay and equal rights.
Interested in learning more about social work and social justice? Take a look at the University of New England’s Master of Social Work Online Program.