WiB Spotlight Interview: Giselle Bernard

Meet our contributor Giselle Bernard, a Franco-British student of European Social and Political Sciences at Sciences Po and University College London who also recently became a volunteer in an association to support immigrant detainees in the UK.

1. Where did you grow up and what do you love the most about that place?

I grew up in a rural part of western France, la Sarthe. I loved the freedom I had there as a child. The forest and fields were my playground, and the leaves, sticks and flowers my toys. Whatever I found outdoors was a source of endless creativity.

2. Where do you live now?

I currently live in London.

3. What are you passionate about (and why)?

I am passionate about climate justice, refugee rights and feminism. I think fighting climate change, and having more inclusive and welcoming societies are the greatest challenges that face us at the moment. It took me a while to start making my concerns and ideas about this more vocal. Like many people, I think I shied away from anything political. “Politics” is such a negatively connoted word today, somewhat associated with a class of corrupted or self-interested elites; but really, it should just be about giving our societies a direction, deciding how we want to live together. We need to find a way to bring marginalised individuals back into politics, and I think climate change, gender equality and refugee rights are 3 areas where this is particularly relevant and pressing.

4. One issue that needs more attention is…

The social implications of climate change. Climate change is not just degrees and numbers, it’s also an inequality issue. While this is widely acknowledged among climate change experts, activists and policy makers, it is still not a very mainstream idea. I think that effectively fighting climate change requires that it be humanised, socialised and politicised. People care about inequality more than they do about ice melting.

5. What do you like about writing for WIB?

I like the freedom that is given to us in terms of content. I also like the fact that articles do not necessarily have to be catchy, but can explore an issue in depth. Connecting with other WIB contributors around the world is also a great experience.

6. What are 3 articles you read recently and loved? Why?

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/magazine/a-time-for-refusal.html I read this article after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. I think it is beautifully written, and to me it outlines the best attitude to adopt after such a shock.
  • https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/why-elections-are-bad-for-democracy I read this article quite a while ago, but it came back to mind after the U.S. presidential election.. Although I do not necessarily agree with everything in the article, I think it is a thought provoking piece. It is not afraid to challenge the status quo and offers some realistic alternatives to today’s broken political system. It is not just the U.S. Brexit, European and French politics are worrisome too, and I think this article provides some good analysis, as well as original alternatives.
  • http://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/article/2016/09/09/de-la-jungle-de-calais-au-doux-refuge-des-freres-de-taize_4994904_4497186.html This article is in French. It tells the story of Sudanese refugees who found a home in a rural French catholic community, after having spent some time in the Calais jungle. I read this article after having spent some time volunteering in Calais myself. The situation there was pretty grim, and the relationship between Jungle residents and locals was quite strained. It felt heart-warming to read, in this article, about a more positive experience, one in which solidarity and interfaith dialogue worked, and improved both the lives of refugees and those who welcomed them. It was great to read a story that showed that things do not necessarily need to be confrontational and conflictual. With a little bit of good will and basic empathy, things can take a happier turn.

7. Ask a question for our readers

Are you speaking loud enough? Are you making your voice heard, and not just nodding passively or preaching to the converted?