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Advocating for the Profession on World Social Work Day 2018

Nicole Brown's picture

World Social Work Day is celebrated annually on the third Tuesday of March and took place on March 20, 2018. Events have been held throughout the month of March by social workers and others in the social service sector to celebrate achievements as well as to raise awareness and support for the important role that social workers play in the lives of vulnerable families and communities. The day calls attention to the need for further planning, development and support to the profession and social service sector.

The 2018 World Social Day theme highlights ‘Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability.’ This is the second and final year of featuring this theme from the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) have special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and therefore hold special events at the UN in New York and Geneva in celebration of World Social Work Day.

World Social Work Day event in GenevaUN Day in Geneva
A two-day event was organized in Geneva on March 20-21. The theme was ‘Social work and youth: towards inclusive sustainable development.’ The event was co-organized by IFSW, IASSW, the Schools of Social Work of Geneva and Fribourg, and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). Natia Partskhaladze, senior technical advisor for the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, spoke at the event.

Ana Radulescu, European Vice President of IFSW, gave opening remarks at the event. “Social workers see the poverty every day and they also see growing resilience in people who make use of social workers’ support and services. The need to adapt to current and future challenges requires better access to social protection. Taking part in building the social welfare systems in the 21st century, social workers can ensure that the voice of most disadvantaged and excluded members of society is heard and that social inequalities are addressed and ‘no one is left behind.’”

A recording of the event is available on UNRISD’s Facebook page.

UN Day in New York
The 35th Annual Social Work Day at the United Nations was held on March 26 under the theme ‘SDGs, Climate Change and Social Work Practice.’ More than 700 participants from many countries and across the United States joined the event in New York, and it was also live webcast.

Shirley Gatenio Gabel, representing the IASSW, Fordham University and Commission on SW Education, gave an overview of the purpose of the event, which is to increase social workers’ understanding of the issues the UN is currently addressing and also to increase knowledge of the UN on the role of social workers and how they can be involved in addressing these issues.

Annamaria Campanini, President of IASSW, also provided opening remarks. She shared that there is a longstanding relationship between social work and addressing and adapting to environmental issues. Due to the many social inequities caused by environmental issues, particularly climate change, social workers are a key provider of services to those who are most vulnerable and most impacted. IASSW is committed to research in the field to better understanding and addressing environmental issues to mitigate inequalities, she said.

A student event was also organized the day prior.

Approximately 290 social workers, students from three universities and staff at 30 NGOs and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation attended a World Social Work Day event in Phnom Penh. The event included remarks from field social workers and faculty of several of the social work training institutions as well as entertainment by EpicArts, a group of people with disabilities who have created a series of song and dance performances that inspire and entertain. The event was hosted by the Association of Professional Social Workers of Cambodia, and supported by the Ministry, with material support from the Family Care First program. Attendees received polo shirts, tote bags and pens to carry the message of social work to their various workplaces. Cambodia adapted the IFSW message and materials to fit its environment and the focus of its social work promotion this year.

The Georgian Association of Social Workers is helping to host a regional conference and exchange on social work March 28-29. The two-day conference aims to foster the professionalization and capacity of national social work associations by bringing together multi-sectoral stakeholders from Armenia, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan to share results, learning and best practice models.

The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) joined with the Indonesia Association of Social Workers to host several events throughout March. From March 12-25, a training on case management was held for 120 social workers from 32 provinces by the MOSA with support from Save the Children. “The training provided the basic case management skills that can be used for establishing social work practices. The practices of case management in Indonesia is designed to be embedded into government structure and programs,” said Tata Sudrajat, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children Indonesia. “The training aims to increase government support and protection of social work practices and ensure accountability and sustainability. In some provinces supported by Save the Children, local government …is financing the case management process and recruiting social workers.” Other activities included a competition among social work students on the theme of social development for poverty alleviation and hosting a discussion with social workers in Malaysia and Australia to exchange updates on social work in the region.

The Association of Medical Social Workers of Nigeria organized 153 medical social workers and 45 students to march to the office of the hospital administrator at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, to raise the issue of affordable care for their patients. They also hosted a radio call-in program to increase awareness on the role of social workers and gain support in advocating to the government to pass the social work regulatory bill that would regulate the practice of social work in Nigeria.

Northern Ireland
The Professional Association for Social Workers in Northern Ireland held an event under the theme of “Building Resilient Communities” and launched a campaign to call attention the important role social workers play in helping people with mental health problems. More than 400 social workers in the country provide mental health support and services.

Attendees to CRISOWO Conference march in KigaliRwanda
More than 500 attendees from 25 countries attended the East Africa Centre for Research and Innovation in Social Work (CRISOWO) Conference in Kigali, planned over World Social Work Day. Many of the presentations included a focus on strengthening the social service workforce and social service system. Three Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Ambassadors presented at the conference on effective advocacy for policy change, and Vishanthie Sewpaul, Steering Committee of the Alliance, spoke during the opening plenary. During the conference, a march was held through the streets of Kigali to raise awareness and support for social workers and their work for human rights, child rights and social justice. Hundreds of marchers were led by local police and a band. The march concluded at the genocide memorial with a rally to highlight the importance of social work activism.

The National Association of Social Workers Uganda organized several events during a two-week period under the IFSW theme and sub-theme “Social work and my environment.” Members and social work universities distributed supplies to area medical centers. They hosted a discussion for 700 social work students, held a national Forum and conducted a press briefing to garner attention from media and government. To help call attention to the role of para social workers as part of the workforce, the association and the Bantwana Initiative developed worker profiles to be shared at their Forum. Read two of these profiles about the work of Aseu Apollo and Fredrick Oyapel.

United Kingdom
The British Association of Social Workers held a conference and also announced that they have signed a landmark co-operation agreement with the Social Workers Union (SWU). Trade union representatives at SWU are also trained as social workers to be able to provide advice and representation to social workers.

The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy Social Work Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, was postponed due to weather. The event annually salutes the many social workers working with the federal government to create a more just and equitable society for all people and calls on Congress to continue supporting social services. There are currently eight professional social workers serving in the House and Senate of the United States Congress. March is Social Work Month in the United States.

To help local chapters in planning events, gaining media attention and advocating to policymakers, the National Association of Social Workers developed a number of promotional and campaign materials, which are available for download from the NASW Website.

Resources and Learning Events
In honor of World Social Work Day, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance shared a number of new resources and learning opportunities. The 2017 State of the Social Service Workforce Report highlights the many ways that the social service workforce positively impacts children and families who have been victims of violence. A webinar is being planned for April 12 to review the report finding and recommendations. The Alliance also announced the full agenda for the 5th Annual Social Service Workforce Strengthening Symposium. Register now to attend in person or online on May 8.

The Alliance has also developed a Global Advocacy Toolkit for the Social Service Workforce to provide a common narrative on advocating for the workforce. The toolkit includes factsheets, stories, data and infographics to assist with outreach efforts to policymakers. An infographic depicts the important role of the workforce in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The toolkit will help with continued advocacy throughout the year.

World Social Work Day is an opportunity to raise support and attention for the profession, but the need to proactively promote the valuable contributions made by the social service workforce is needed all year long. If you have more information about events held in your country, please add information in comments below to this blog. View the photo album on our Facebook page of photos from events held around the world.