For the last few years a loyal team of community champions in Kirklees have been supporting the work of Remembering Srebrenica in both raising awareness of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide and tackling the hatred and discrimination that can lead to such tragedies. Undertaking no less than 20 workshop presentations this July, Mashuda and Simon worked together to conduct these workshops with different groups across Kirklees where they learned about the genocide and then discussed how this relates to contemporary society.
The main focus of the workshops was to raise awareness of the importance of tackling any form of discrimination or demonization of a particular group at the earliest stage. As Mashuda and Simon have been committed to the work of Remembering Srebrenica for a number of years, they both wanted to challenge themselves and work with groups who might not normally get involved with this kind of work.
After making initial contact and instigating conversations with four different groups, Mashuda and Simon developed good relationships built on trust and approached 4 groups in what they described to be 4 predominately white working class areas of Huddersfield with a view to holding a workshop in a central location. The determination to engage and the time to build trust paid off as it resulted in people coming out and attending something that “they weren’t quite sure of from the outset”.
The 4 groups that came together were Longfield and Ridgeway TRA, Cottage Homes Community Group, Newsome TRA and Almondbury Disabled Leisure Group. The Cottage Homes Group kindly hosted the session in their community room in Dalton and provided a buffet as part of the evening workshop. This also helped to connect people and provide the right atmosphere to focus on a potentially difficult topic later in the evening.
After watching a short film provided by Remembering Srebrenica, a short discussion was held about the genocide in 1995 and how the events preceding it are often mirrored by current things we see happening in contemporary society. The audience were all affected by the workshop and a deep and thought provoking discussion took place after the film with people very open to express their opinions and thoughts after absorbing the content of the film. The audience were quick to draw parallels between the discrimination that led to the genocide in 1995 and things that are happening in Britain and around the world more recently. The real impact of the event can be captured by the attendees own verbatim:
‘’It was unbelievable that something so bad happened only 21 years ago, I genuinely didn’t know what had actually happened until I saw the film tonight’’
‘’Despite initial reservations I have thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and I have learnt a great deal from attending tonight’s film and discussion.
‘’Being brutally honest I left feeling an element of guilt in not knowing the true extent of the suffering. I certainly do now’’
“I’ll be honest it brought tears to my eyes, boy am I’m glad I came tonight- I wasn’t going to come’’
In carrying out a series of 20 events like this one, it is clear that Mashuda and Simon are carrying out the crucial foundational work in gradually raising awareness and gradually creating a culture of active commemoration:
“through this initial pilot the different agencies and departments who made this happen have identified other groups and organisation where we could deliver this workshop. This will widen the net and hopefully raise awareness amongst a broader range of people from very different backgrounds across the South Huddersfield area as a result. Overall a very positive outcome and well worth the extra effort to engage a broader group of people and not the usual people who attend things like this.”
– Simon, Remembering Srebrenica Community Champion