Aktuális / Aktivizmus

Nyári egyetem: Ellenállás a diktatúrában – tapasztalataink és lehetőségeink



2018 Magyarország. Még nem diktatúra, de egyre kevesebb levegőhöz jutunk. Félünk a politikától, félünk egymástól, félünk a kívülállóktól. Meg féltjük magunkat is. De mit lehet tenni? Hogyan éljünk túl? És hogyan álljunk ellen? Hogyan erősödjünk meg? Hogyan kommunikáljunk egymással? És hogyan építsünk fel egy másik Magyarországot? Itt a lehetőség, hogy közösen tanuljunk elődeinktől itthon és külföldön, meghallgassuk más országok, közösségek és régiók tapasztalatát, és ami a legfontosabb: egymástól tanuljunk.

A Város Mindenkié és a Közélet Iskolája idén is megrendezi – immár hetedik – közösségi nyári egyetemét. Az idei témánk: Ellenállás a diktatúrában – tapasztalatok a múltból és a világ minden tájáról, lehetőségek ma Magyarországon.

Jelentkezz saját programmal! Várjuk civil szervezetek, állampolgári kezdeményezések, informális közösségek, mozgalmak, kutatók és újságírók jelentkezését és programjavaslatát!

A vendégprogramok formája teljesen szabad, lehet jelentkezni műhelyfoglalkozás megtartásával, művészeti vagy egyéb kreatív kezdeményezésekkel, kerekasztal-beszélgetéssel, filmvetítéssel, vagy bármilyen más programmal, ami illeszkedik a nyári egyetem témájához. A kiválasztáskor előnyben részesítjük azokat a programokat, amelyek aktívan bevonják a nyári egyetem többi résztvevőjét.

Időpont: 2018. augusztus 11-12.

Helyszín: Gólya Szövetkezeti Presszó (Budapest, 8. kerület, Bókay János utca 34.)

A vidékről érkező programszervezők kérhetnek utazási támogatást és a rendezvény mindkét napján meleg ebédet biztosítunk a résztvevőknek.

Jelentkezés saját programmal a Közélet Iskolája az itt elérhető jelentkezési lapon. Jelentkezési határidő: 2018. július 1.

Megjegyzés: A nyári egyetem részletes programját a beadott programjavaslatok áttekintése után, július 15-én fogjuk közzétenni. A  részvétel ingyenes és nem kell regisztrálni sem.

További információ: Udvarhelyi Tessza (06 20 381 8996), kozeletiskolaja@gmail.com

Fotó: Várady István

Tessza Udvarhelyi: How to use research for activism?


Thank you very much for this opportunity – it is such an honor to be here for both of us. in the next few minutes we will share some of our personal stories and experiences of how research changed our lives and led us to become activists.

I started out my life as a researcher out of pure academic interest in the notions of cleanliness and purity, following in the footsteps of my favorite anthropologist Mary Douglas. But I also heard of applied anthropology during my studies and had a feeling that I should do research that is not only useful for me, but also for society. At this point, I had no idea what this meant, but it sounded important…

For months, my co-researcher and I had been looking for a topic that would meet these two criteria. Then in 2002 we found a short article in a newspaper that reported on a new program launched by the mayor of Budapest to clean (and this is the word they used) the underground pedestrian passages of Budapest from 3 things: graffiti, illegal vendors and homeless people.
So we dug into this topic and stuck with it for three years. Over these years, I got more and more angry at what I discovered. In the interviews we made and the texts we read, the politicians and technocrats of Budapest kept trying to convince me that they were doing what all the so-called decent residents of the city wanted: clean the city of undesirables and give it back to us, decent people. In other words, as it turned out, homeless people were chased away in my name and to serve my imagined needs as a white middle-class resident.

I come from a safe middle class background with many privileges. One of these is a secure home and the other is almost unlimited access to quality education. Even though I was vaguely aware of these, this research forced me to take a harder look at my own position in the world and the things I take for granted. It was definitely a process of awakening.

More importantly, this research did something I never even knew was missing: it helped me discover my political self. It not only made me angry as an individual but also made me think about my role in reproducing injustice and about WHO was responsible for changing what I was angry about.

After we completed the research, we started thinking about how to make it “useful for society” as we heard it so often in school. We contacted different NGOs, sent them our study and were really HOPING that they would use our findings. One of these organizations was Man on the Street, an activist network fighting for the right to housing. And this is where my life changed for good.

This organization did not just thank us for our work, but invited us to join them. If you really want to do something about it, you need to take responsibility for it – this is basically what they told us. You can’t just HOPE that your academic work will be useful for someone somewhere but you actually have to TAKE ACTION to make this happen. You have to seek out opportunities, not just wait for them. You have to actively engage with civil society organizations and social movements if you REALLY want your work to be used.

They will never come to you and ask you for your help – you have to go ahead and make sure the knowledge you produced is available to as many people as possible. And this part they did not teach me at the university.

In the end, I did actually join this group and became an activist. For the first few months, I was telling myself that I was there out of a sense of duty: that I had to follow through with my research, making sure that the group understood what we found and knew how to use it for their own purposes. And then another important thing happened.

In 2005 the Budapest general assembly proposed a law that would ban begging in all the public spaces if Budapest. At first the group was not sure whether they wanted to step up against this proposal. However, as this was one of the topics that we covered extensively in our thesis, I showed them historical and international examples of how the criminalization of begging is nothing else than the criminalization of poverty. It took some convincing, but we finally did decide to organize against it and I found myself as one of the organizers of a protest in front of the city hall as the voting took place. We actually won and the ban was not passed.

The next day I was travelling by tram and as I was thinking about the protest, I suddenly had this very strong sense of power come all over me. It was a feeling that I never had before and will never forget. I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but this was the moment that I was actually born as a citizen. Now I know that before I was only the skeleton of a citizen. For the very first time in my life, I had actually managed to intervene into the life of a larger collective, the society I was living in and this was both necessary and liberating.

Since this moment, I have been an activist for housing rights. In 2009, I co-founded The City is for All, the only grassroots housing advocacy group in Hungary. A unique feature of this group is that its membership includes homeless, formerly homeless people and middle class allies such as myself. For nine years now, we have worked together, sharing our skills, knowledge and experiences to achieve housing rights for everyone in Hungary.

So it was through research that I found my citizenship, but only by consciously going beyond the academic realm and making a personal effort at achieving change. HOPE was not enough. It was through action that I was able to take responsibility for change.

Later, I realized that if research was something that could politicize and liberate me, it can have the same effect on other people, too, especially those who suffer from the most serious forms of oppression and exclusion. However, in the traditional university setup, these are exactly the people who are not present – or if they are, they are always the objects of research. Their ideas and needs are always being studied by other people, which definitely does not lead to their liberation – but often to further stigmatization.

As I was struggling with these issues, I was lucky to discover the world of participatory action research as an approach where people who are affected by a social issue are not studied as in a laboratory but actively engage in research themselves to understand the structural roots of their problems and then take action to change the situation. In this case, research goes way beyond the walls of the university and becomes a path towards full citizenship – something that is essential for oppressed groups to challenge their oppression.

In the School of Public Life, a community-based education center, where I work today, we believe – as one of our participants put it – that democracy is not a noun but a verb – it only exists if we do it. We offer courses, workshops and open forums where people can learn about social and political inequalities and develop their skills in both the everyday representation of their interests and more large-scale advocacy and movement building. Many of our students come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, but we also have many middle-class people who are interested in becoming activists or simply active citizens.

In the School we see participatory action research or PAR as a form of critical pedagogy. PAR is a long-term form of political education where people explore the conditions around them, connect the dots, draw the conclusions and also think about ways to take action. And in this process, they go through the same process of becoming a citizen as I did back in 2005. In our participatory action research projects people with no academic background and often little formal education who were the victims of different kinds of social oppression discovered their own citizenship and responsibility by asking questions, collecting data, formulating answers and planning actions.

In the PAR projects I have been involved in, we have explored the various forms of discrimination homeless people face in public spaces, uncovered the history of housing movements in Budapest and studied the conditions of independent living for people with physical disabilities – all with the people who are directly affected by these issues. I have learnt a lot during these projects – not only from what we discovered, but also – and mostly – from my co-researchers.

I personally don’t believe in individual research anymore. I believe in collective, participatory research where knowledge is not produced for the sake of abstract academic ideals or professional career building, but is shared broadly and is a means to empowering people to become fully fledged political beings in the world. In other words, I believe in research that produces citizens, who take responsibility for change. And I believe universities have a central role in understanding, embracing and promoting research of this kind.

Of course, I don’t believe that everyone should be an activist or that participatory research is the only valuable approach to the production of knowledge. I believe that there are many ways for s to take responsibility for change. What I do believe though, is that universities and other academic spaces have to be places where these questions are not only addressed as abstract topics or even worse, as niceties, but as key political questions that everyone has to find their own answers to. In a world where masses of people are deemed politically, economically and socially useless, the university and the intellectuals it socializes have to take a leading role in helping all of us discover the real meaning of our citizenship and challenge the political, social and economic conditions that dehumanize all of us.

Presented at the 8th Living Knowledge conference (Budapest, May 30-June 1, 2018.)

Zóra Molnár: How to use research for activism?


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experience with our participatory action research today! I would like to tell you why the participatory action research has played a crucial role in my life; how our group started to focus on advocacy, and finally, I will tell you some key moments of our biggest success story so far. 

When I started the university in 2009, I moved to Pécs and spent the upcoming three years in a dormitory. After finishing my bachelor degree there in 2012, I decided to come to Budapest and continue my studies here. Initially, I thought it would be easy to manage this process because I had already done it in a smaller city three years. I contacted each university which offers a masters program in psychology to find out if they are wheelchair-accessible or not. Finally, I ended up with scheduling a visit to the Eötvös Lóránd University to attend the open house, meet the coordinator of the students with special needs, and to see the dormitory where I could live. A few months later it turned out that due to the fire and safety regulations it is not possible to create an accessible room as we agreed earlier. The university offered me to options: either I could move to the institution of people with physical disability at Marczibányi square and live there for two years or postpone my studies with one year, stay at home and see what the future brings. I had never lived in an institution before, and I knew that as long as I have an influence on my own life, I will never do so. Staying at home was not a real alternative either, because my family lives in a small village with bad accessibility conditions and very few opportunities for an independent life in general.

We started to look for backup options because the academic year had begun in September, and in the mid-summer, I was still in need of a place to stay in Budapest. Although we left no stone unturned, it appeared to be impossible to find accommodation for a student in a wheelchair. Those universities which had proper rooms were insisted on keeping them for their own students, not to mention the sublets where there can be found basically no examples of wheelchair-accessible properties.

Finally, I managed to move into a social housing unit and start my studies on time, but it was a matter of fortune rather than a systematic response to my problem. From this point on I knew that I want to do something about this situation. I thought it is simply cannot be allowed that talented young people are excluded from the highest quality educational institutions just because there are no proper housing services available for them in Budapest. It is simply cannot be allowed that the lack of adequate housing opportunities prevents young adults with physical disabilities from becoming independent from their families and starting their own lives. I had no doubt that this is nonsense but did not see the way how to change it.

Joining the ”Living Independently in a Community” group was a life-changing experience for me. Although I had no idea about the participatory action research when I went to the kick-off training in August 2016, it became clear slowly, that it might be the tool for that I had been looking for so long. Our group was made up of 14 members: 10 researchers with physical disabilities three allies (social scientists and social professionals) and one photographer. We got to know each other and got familiar with the main types of the research methods during the introductory training. Afterward, we started to work on defining our ”the big question” which we had tried to answer in the upcoming ten months. Following several weeks of brainstorming in common, we decided to dedicate our research to the question: ” what are the conditions of the independent living for people with physical disabilities in Hungary?” Considering that this is an extraordinarily complex topic, we decided to narrow down our research to the following five main areas: housing policy, accessible public transportation and built environment, supporting services, income and social attitude towards people with physical disabilities. We used a wide range of research methods to explore these areas. We designed and conducted two online surveys (one for people with physical disabilities and another for careworkers. We were interviewing people with physical disabilities (focusing on their housing circumstances) and also professionals. At last but not least, we also used public data several times.
Although our topic was very complex, we had been paying special attention to two topics during the entire process. The public transportation was our first focus area: we organized two roundtable discussions on the problems and potential solutions related to the public transportation in Budapest. On the other hand, we also put a big emphasis on dealing with housing policies. We also had some guest speakers, one of whom was a lawyer specialized in the system of the so-called ”supported housing.” This form of housing is supposed to replace the large institutions, which have to be closed down. However, it became clear for us, that the current system serves the interest of those who maintain these „mini institutions” rather than offering a real opportunity for independent living those in need.

Thanks to our research, we have gained a huge amount of lexical knowledge, but I think it is even more important that we have become much more confident, have got interested in the public life, and our political awareness has started to develop as well. I do believe that this set of skills made us self-advocates who are not only determined but also conscious.

In last spring we already knew that we would like to continue working together when the research comes to its end. At that time, we had come across the open call of the Civil College Foundation which was targeted at local communities with some experience in advocacy. We thought it was an amazing opportunity to increase our group and prove its subsistence on the long run, so we applied, and after completing all the requirements successfully, we won enough money to employ a professional community organizer who also receives mentorship and professional training in the frame of the program.

We opened up the group to the newcomers in last October, since then we have been functioning as the first ever advocacy group of Hungary which tackles the issue of independent housing for people with physical disabilities. Our goal is to introduce a legal reform in the field of the supported housing by making the system more responsive to the individual needs and demands of those who are affected.

Besides fulfilling a pivotal role in housing advocacy for people with physical disabilities, we have been continuing our activities concerning the accessible public transportation as well. The issue of the reconstruction of the metro line 3 served for us like a hot topic last year. Especially after the major of Budapest had made a statement, saying that it is not worth investing in making the metro accessible because the people with physical disabilities do not use it anyway. Apparently, we found this way of thinking unacceptable, felt outraged and wanted to raise our voice to point out the nonsense and reversed logic behind this approach. We organized two street actions at the „Dózsa György úti metro station,” the only station in the first phase of the reconstruction which was not supposed to be made accessible according to the original plans. We held our first event at the end of October last year; we took some wheelchairs to the underpass and asked the passers-by to sit in and try to use the ramp. It turned out very soon that the slope is way too steep to cope with on their own. They could also attempt to overcome the stairs with the help of some funny tools (e.g., balloons). Our second action took place on 3rd November 2017, the day of the closure of the northern section of the metro line. It centered upon an open discussion on the importance of accessibility and solidarity. In the meantime, we were attending several meetings with various actors involved in the issue, among others the Metro Project Directorate, the National Federation of Disabled Persons’ Associations (MEOSZ) and the Association of Disabled Persons in Budapest. In spite of the demonstrations organized by various organizations and the increasing media attention, neither the government nor the major of Budapest wanted to take the financial responsibility for the costs related to accessibility.

In December 2017, an opposition party politician submitted a referendum question on the full accessibility of the metro line. The collection of the signatures could be started finally at the beginning of February.

A few days later, the president of MEOSZ suddenly managed to make progress with decision-makers, and after a series of negotiations with István Tarlós, they agreed on examining station by station what the technical possibilities are to make them accessible. At the end of April, they signed the agreement on making all the 20 stations accessible.

This decision has been undoubtedly the greatest success story of the Hungarian civil sector for a very long time. Our group is proud of its contribution to this great achievement, and it inspires us to continue our struggle in other fields as well.

Presented at the 8th Living Knowledge Conference (Budapest, May 30 - June 1, 2018.)

Velünk beszélj, ne rólunk!

Fotó: Csoszó Gabriella
from A Város Mindenkié on Picasa

Jelölj te is hátrányos helyzetű aktivistákat és érdekvédőket!

A Közélet Iskolája és a Napvilág Kiadó közös kötet kiadására vállalkozik, melynek célja, hogy a szélesebb nyilvánosság számára is bemutasson olyan embereket, akik életük során megtapasztalták az elnyomást és kirekesztést és éppen annak érdekében végeznek közéleti, aktivista vagy érdekvédő szerepet, hogy megszüntessék az igazságtalan társadalmi körülményeket.

A készülő könyv egyrészt inspirációként kíván szolgálni azok számára, akik hátrányt szenvednek a magyar társadalomban és modellt kíván mutatni arra, hogy a legnehezebb körülmények között élő emberek is képesek jogaikkal aktívan élő, másokért is cselekvő állampolgárokként élni. Másrészt azok számára is pozitív példát kíván mutatni, akik nem tapasztaltak meg elnyomást vagy kirekesztést és ezért nehezen tudják elképzelni, hogy hátrányos helyzetű emberek közösségi vezetőkké váljanak.

A kötetben összesen 10 portré fog szerepelni, többek között hajléktalan, LMBTQ, szegénységben élő, fogyatékkal élő, roma, bevándorló és közmunkás tapasztalattal rendelkező aktivistákkal. A szöveges portrékat Csoszó Gabriella képei fogják illusztrálni.

Azért hogy a portrék tükrözzék a magyarországi aktivista-érdekvédő közösség sokszínűségét, nyilvános pályázatot hirdetünk!

Ha ismersz olyan hátrányos helyzetben élő embert, aki érdekvédelmi, közösségszervező, vagy egyéb közéleti munkát végez a hozzá hasonló helyzetben élők körében, küldd el jelölésedet az itt elérhető jelölő lapon.

Jelölési határidő: augusztus 30.

További információ:

www.kozeletiskolaja.hu, kozeletiskolaja@gmail.com, 06 20 381 8996 (Udvarhelyi Tessza)