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Risky business: Coping strategies and resilience amongst survivors of structural inequalities and precarious lives

Risky business: Coping strategies and resilience amongst survivors of structural inequalities and precarious lives

Globalisation has produced a ‘risk society’ that has increased structural inequalities within and between countries, and made the quality of life poorer for billions of children, women and men inhabiting planet Earth.  Despite the doom and gloom, people have developed coping strategies, strengths and resiliences that minimise their vulnerabilities and enable them to survive.  Resilience has been defined as the capacity to surmount adversity.

It has been crucial to enabling poor people to cope with precarious lives marked by hardship and suffering and has played a key role in strength-based approaches to social work. Whilst useful this definition focuses on individual strengths and skills without addressing the impact of structural inequalities in producing vulnerability, dependency and precariousness, which are all components of risk that resilience seeks to address.

Notwithstanding the growth of precarious livelihoods and the continued violation of people’s human rights and claims to social justice, people’s determination to overcome adversities – natural and ‘man-made’, have ensured that adults and children continue to press for their entitlement to a quality of life that inspires action and demands for and egalitarian humanity whereby suffering is reduced, if not altogether eliminated.

In this presentation, I will deconstruct the term, resilience, and examine how it might be broadened to focus on marginality and structural inequalities.  In doing so, I will consider the contexts in which globalization has exacerbated vulnerabilities amongst a widening pool of people, and the stuggles that those caught in this global web have initiated to take control of their lives, hold multinational corporations, international NGOs and governments to account, and seek to create a world that is more in keeping with their vision for a safe physical and social environment for their children and grandchildren to inhabit.  I argue that adaption through flexible coping strategies, resilience today and dreams for a better tomorrow are central to the achievement of this goal.

Areas of Interest / Categories: BISBP 2009, Resilience, Social Work, Survivors, Vulnerability