No-one achieves change alone but one person is all it takes to encourage others to believe that they are valid and valuable enough to use their voice.
David E. Watters, is perhaps best known as one of the Marriage Equality pioneers who challenged U.K. marriage laws at the European Court of Human Rights, making it possible for many thousands of couples to realise their romantic aspirations since the laws were changed.
Perhaps you know him as the founder of the internationally acclaimed Give ’em Hope Campaign but did you know that he is also a teacher, motivational speaker and writer; a passionate equality advocate, committed to enhancing the lives of young people and adults who may feel marginalised or limited by labels?
As a teacher, currently working within a Special Educational Needs setting, he is committed to developing the whole person through creatively challenging students to embrace their unique value, and that of others, to encourage them to fulfil their full potential.
For more than 25 years, he has consistently embedded social development and community engagement within his teaching, delivering diversity training and events; in the process, raising funds and/or awareness for the Terrence Higgins Trust, MacMillan Cancer Support, Teenage Cancer Trust, Ichthyosis Support Group, Solent NHS Trust, Enham, Animals Asia Foundation, the Meningitis Trust, The Bruce Trust, Brave Hearts, the British Red Cross, Andover Community Responder Team, amongst others.
He has won a Vodaphone World of Change Award and was nominated for an Excellence in Diversity Award 2015, for his contribution to enhancing the diversity agenda within education and for two European Diversity Awards because of his work with the Give ’em Hope Campaign.
The inclusive, inspirational and international Give ‘em Hope Campaign is an online Oral History initiative which utilises all available social networks to encourage and uplift those who doubt their validity, feel isolated or limited by labels, through the sharing of written and video testimonies.
Contributions for the campaign have come from all corners of the globe, from a diverse range of contributors of all ages, genders, races, faiths and sexualities. The topics covered have shone a light on the commonality of our human experience, regardless of the particular labels an initial first glance may imply.
The campaign was honoured at the National Diversity Awards 2014 when it won the Community Organisation Award (Multi-Strand).
Watters was a key player in the Equal Love Campaign UK; taking the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 and successfully achieving Marriage Equality for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.
As part of the Equal Love Campaign, spearheaded by veteran Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, David E Watters and Richard J Hull were the second same-sex couple to file for a marriage license in Greenwich back in December 2010.
Their application, as anticipated, was refused and this prompted them, under the banner of the Equal Love Campaign, to take their case to the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights).
This they did alongside 7 other couples, both straight and gay, claiming unfair treatment in access to marriage and civil partnership within the UK.
When a case, such as this, is taken to the ECHR the British government have a limited timeframe in which to respond and take action.
As we now know, marriage equality, in terms of gay couples having access to civil marriage was achieved.
In a statement made prior to their own historic wedding in August last year, Peter Tatchell, who coordinated the Equal Love campaign from 2010 to 2013, noted:
“I am delighted that David and Richard are getting married and offer them my congratulations. Together with three other gay couples, they played a very important role in helping secure same-sex marriage and in winning public hearts and minds. I am so proud of them. They were great ambassadors for marriage equality. I wish them every happiness.”
When interviewed by Katie Oakes for ITV London News, this is what the couple had to say: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=NQVZIYJuIEs
David: “We are both thrilled to have played a part in successfully challenging the UK marriage laws and to have helped make it possible for others to realise their romantic aspirations.
Our goal was never selfishly motivated and we always wanted, through our involvement with the Equal Love Campaign, to be a voice for others.
It has been hugely rewarding to see others take up the opportunity to marry or to “upgrade” their previous Civil Partnerships.
We have gone on an enriching personal journey which has meant talking to the media both nationally and internationally, in a bid to raise awareness, and this has had untold benefits to those who struggle to accept their sexuality or who live within cultures where they may face severe discrimination.
Publicly sharing our stories and taking part in challenging inequality is the only way that social progress can be made.
There is no longer a sense of gay shame and there is no shame in being gay. We are thankful to have played a part in changing the law and in challenging perceptions.
It was presumed that couples would immediately marry when the law changed but we decided to wait, to do it in our own way and in our own time.
The Equal Love Campaign taught me a great deal and has inspired me to continue striving for social change.”
I know how it can get, when you struggle, seemingly fruitlessly, against resistant forces and feel that your efforts are having no impact.
I know how important it is to develop patience, to be be creative, tireless and tenacious.
I also know how important it is to develop and implement self-care strategies so that you can balance your life, maintain a healthy and positive attitude and, when necessary, step back, relax, refresh and return galvanised for the next round.