Reflections on a student placement with Making Rights Real

Reflections on a student placement with Making Rights Real

Hannah Kitchen Kirby completed a student placement with Making Rights Real in 2022, while studying for her Masters in Adult Education, Community Development and Youth Work. She tells us about her experiences here.

My student placement with Making Rights Real

Last year, I did part of my student placement with Making Rights Real. I had already been working in partnership with Clare through my normal community work job at Inspiring Leith but could tell from our meetings that I would learn a massive amount from working alongside her and Lorraine at MRR – and I wasn’t wrong! Working with Making Rights Real taught me so much about human rights and good community development work. Here are a few things I learned:

Fun, creativity and relationships

I adored my time with Making Rights Real partly because I laughed so much! That’s perhaps not the first thing you would think about when talking about devastatingly serious issues such as poverty and breaches of human rights in housing. But the first time I went along to Fa’side Women and Girls Group I found myself doing the Macarena with women and girls aged between 14 and 80, and just had a lot of fun. When I joined in with some of the SEVEN workshops with incredible activists from around Scotland, I would come home feeling full of joy because I’d laughed and shared with so many brilliant women. Positive relationships can form quickly when people are involved in something so fun, and these can be so important to individuals, and for building groups.

Asking, ‘What’s going on here?’ – Margaret Ledwith

Creating space for folk to step back and look at what’s going on, means we all start to see that our individual problems are actually part of a bigger picture – one we can join with others to influence. I loved learning more from the Scottish Women’s Budget Group about ‘following the money.’ My involvement with the Fa’side Women and Girls activities made me consider that when you look at how public money is spent, you really see what the priorities are. Seeing the male experience as typical can seriously affect women if public spending decisions are made on this basis. Alternatively, prioritising women in public spending can have benefits for all. To really understand what is going on in your community, you need to ask lots of people and get some data together. I was inspired by Making Rights Real to do this in my ‘day job.’

A Human Rights Based Approach

Learning from Making Rights Real helped me to support residents at Cables Wynd House in Leith to collect data about their housing conditions, set targets of the improvements they wanted to see and to share their expectations with Edinburgh City Council (the duty bearer). Sharing people’s comments, pictures and statistics from the building had the result of a quick announcement to retrofit the whole building – something that was already in the pipeline but which we think was sped up through the increased accountability that the residents’ work brought about. As we continue this work, I try to remember things I learnt at Making Rights Real, such as asking who is furthest from realising their rights in the building, and how can we ensure they have the opportunity to participate? As Inez McCormack put it:

“If you put equal rights at the heart of the thing, you have to be sure that everyone is at the table.”

Getting together

We had a brilliant meet up at the amazing venue The Engine Shed in Stirling towards the end of my time with Making Rights Real in September 2022. Eight women from Cables Wynd House came along and learned from other groups, ate nice food and chatted about human rights and heritage with Historic Environment Scotland. These sorts of experiences make life richer, connections deeper, and learning more meaningful. Now I’ve finished my placement and course and our work in Edinburgh to improve housing rights at Cables Wynd House continues, I remain inspired and encouraged by Making Rights Real.

Hannah Kitchen Kirby lives in North Edinburgh and works as a Community Development Worker for Inspiring Leith. She’s a very enthusiastic and also very tired mum, who likes making things, song writing, swimming, cycling and drinking tea in bed! She recently finished a Masters in Adult Education, Community Development and Youth Work at the University of Glasgow.

Photo of author taken by Anneleen Lindsay