(Dedicated to Mr Charisse who died earlier this week – a teacher who looked me straight in the eyes and spoke to me in kindness. I remember his love of Asterix, Franglaise, Dire Straits ‘Money For Nothing’ and, of course, that moustache).
People have tried to stop me speaking here, to you today.
Some people have tried hard to intimidate me, to stop me from speaking to you.
Let me tell you this:
Whenever someone takes action, be it against one person or a group, either in their words or in their deeds –
Whenever someone takes action with the intent, the deliberate intent
That always, always, always
Comes from a place of fear
Comes from a place of weakness
Comes from a place of pain.
So what is it that I might have to say that some others don’t want me to say?
So what is it that some people don’t want you to hear today?
Could it be that I might say I believe in equality?
Could it be that I might say I believe there is beauty in diversity and difference?
Could it be that I might say there is value in every, single, human life?
Well. I’ve gone and said it now.
University and College Union, UCU’s National Executive send solidarity to you here today.
And I tell you that UCU’s National Executive
speak in unity
speak with one voice
When we say:
No to forced returns to Myanmar
No to genocide
No to genocidal rape.
Maya Angelou, the writer, the poet, the human rights activist, the phenomenal woman –
Maya Angelou said one person with right on their side is strong.
Maya Angelou said one person, just one person, with right on their side can take on the world.
Well. I stand before you representing UCU.
I stand before you representing a trade union of 120,000 educators –
That’s 120,000 educators saying:
No to fascism
No to racism
No to discrimination in any of its vile and ugly forms.
That’s 120,000 educators with right on their side –
That’s a heck of a lot of strong.
The trade union movement has such an important role in the upholding of human rights.
So this is what my trade union is doing to support the rights of the Rohingya people:
My trade union, UCU, supports The Rohingya’s right to legal status.
My trade union, UCU, supports The Rohingya’s right to live in freedom from persecution and violence
My trade union, UCU, supports the United Nations in securing The Rohingya People’s right to return to their homeland in safety
My trade union, UCU, is producing campaign materials and is encouraging branches to join local action like this today
My trade union, UCU, amplifies international voices in campaigning to stop the systematic use of rape and sexual violence as a political weapon
And our general secretary, Sally Hunt, is writing to the United Nations about this, in solidarity and in support of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
I call on you now.
I call on each of you here now to take action
Go to your trade union – and if you’re not in one, join one
Go to your trade union and ask them to move on the Rohingya issue.
Go to your trade union and ask them what they are doing to uphold human rights.
And you support them in the work they are doing.
One person with right on their side is strong.
There is power in a union. Solidarity.