February 20 marks the World day for Social Justice. It is good to think about Social justice because it is at the centre of promoting development and human dignity. Social justice is particularly important for the cause of Nutrition and health because of the huge barriers that the nutrition and health communities face in tackling issues. These barriers include gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, culture to mention a few.
The issue of social justice hinges on the right to life and the principles of social justice focus on access (that people have access to goods and services regardless of the age, gender, ethnicity etc) and equity (that resources are distributed fairly). I am sure sociologists and philosophers can say more.
For social justice to be actualized in Nigeria, we as a people must come together to accomplish things that would benefit the whole community. For example, no one should be malnourished. We should work together to eliminate the old problem of malnutrition. Currently, child malnutrition rate in Nigeria is well above 10% and more than 50% in some Northern regions. Malnutrition is more or less an epidemic.
Malnutrition kills. For those that do not die, they would be a part of the future workforce; and what a workforce that would be. Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, captured this when he said, “Stunted children today lead to stunted economies tomorrow.”
Like in the case of malnutrition, no one should lose their livelihood and their living accommodation because of his ethnicity or religion. Likewise, no one should be deprived access to facilities and land because of gender. They are all related.
Social justice from one person’s view point might be to practice fairness and equity on another but the truth is that meting out social justice is being fair and equitable with yourself too. Because we are social in nature, we do not exist in isolation and the progress (or lack of )of a person can hinder your own progress now or in the future. So we must work together.
The message of social justice is one of cooperation and association. Let us cooperate and, especially, work to help those who are most vulnerable in out midst. There are also different capacities in which we can operate. For me, I am currently focused on nutrition and health education and there are many NGOs and different entities who work with the poor, malnourished, homeless, and other vulnerable groups in different capacities. Do what you can; don’t wait for the government. Nutrition and health indicators often show the economic picture and we don’t look too good right now as a country or a continent but together we can change the picture.
I like to remember the words of the late Nigerian Professor of Economics, Sam Aluko who said, “The poor cannot sleep because they are hungry and the rich cannot sleep because the poor are awake and hungry.” Ponder on this.