About Everyday Justice
Most of us believe in values of freedom, justice and non-violence. But how many of us live our daily lives in alignment with these values?
Social justice movements are important to advocate for freedom and justice in the world. But I believe we must start with ourselves. The world we live in is a reflection of our collective everyday choices. If our own lives and choices do not reflect the values we want to promote ‘out there’, how can we hope to change the world?
In this blog I explore and challenge some of the cultural myths we have been conditioned to believe which inform our everyday choices. These choices often result in oppression and violence towards others and destruction of the earth without us realising it. I examine the connections between animal exploitation, human oppression and environmental destruction and try to find ways to promote freedom, justice and non-violence in our everyday lives.
This exploration includes a wide variety of subjects including: animal rights and veganism, eco-feminism, food justice, sustainability, anarchism, child rights, personal freedom and much more.
I am not an expert in any of these areas and I don’t presume to have any answers. My aim is to educate myself through writing about these subjects. To develop a clearer picture of what a life lived in alignment with my values might look like. Values that I have consciously chosen, rather than unknowingly internalised, so that I can lead a life that is intentional, free and just.
This blog will serve as a record of my journey of discovery. I hope it will be of interest to those who want to deepen their understanding of the world around them. To anyone who wants to live more mindfully and intentionally. I hope readers will share their thoughts, ideas and experiences with me so we can learn and grow together.
My name is Laila Kassam. I have a PhD in Development Economics and have been working in the international development sector since 2003. I have worked for NGOs, foundations, government ministries and international research and development institutions.
My work has focused on conducting research for rural development projects in low income countries and has ranged from planning projects to assessing their impact on household poverty and food security. My research has been published in peer reviewed journals and by international organisations including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.
I am currently based in the UK but have lived and worked in Switzerland, Kenya, Guyana, Malaysia and Ghana. I have also worked on projects in India, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, St Lucia and Sierra Leone.
My time in the development sector has given me valuable experience working on social justice issues such as poverty, food security and climate change. It has also given me a unique insight into the ways in which aid is often politically motivated and misused. How it can reinforce rather than dismantle local and global systems of inequality and domination.
In 2013 I became vegan. I realised how wrong it was to cause unnecessary suffering to other animals and knew I had to stop supporting this injustice. I found it increasingly hard to reconcile my vegan ethics with my work. The projects I was involved with promoted animal exploitation to support poor farmers, most of whom rely on mixed crop and ‘livestock’ production systems. At the same time I started to question more deeply the model of ‘development’ these projects were promoting. I came to view mainstream ‘development’ as a form of neo-colonialism.
I started to look for alternatives. I began to learn about sustainable agriculture, natural building and sustainable living. At the end of 2013 I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate in Guatemala. I also volunteered with the Earthship crew to build an off-grid community centre in Malawi in partnership with the local community. In 2014 I took a ‘Complete Cob Cottage Intensive’ natural building course with House Alive in Italy.
These experiences were transformative. They helped me kick-start the process of rethinking how I wanted to live in this world. They exposed me to communities of people who had rejected the status quo and were forging alternative paths at the grassroots level. They were living their values and teaching by example. Along with my burgeoning veganism, these experiences showed me the huge potential each one of us has to make a difference.
At the end of 2015 I co-founded the Veterinary Vegan Network with my partner Shailen, a vegan veterinary surgeon. It was my first real exposure to the power of social media to advocate for and create positive change. It was (and still is) a huge learning experience. It propelled me to educate myself further about veganism and animal rights and introduced me to new ideas about systemic oppression. I began to join the dots between the different social justice issues I was concerned about. I came to realise how interconnected our exploitation of other animals is to our oppression of humans and our destruction of the planet.
So now I find myself at the beginning of an exciting new journey: exploring these connections and understanding their implications on how we live our everyday lives. I invite you to join me.