Eseosa Iyagbaye, a ONE Champion in Nigeria, has a message for young people on why they need to get involved in activism.
Many people may believe that we are all propelled towards contributing to societal change or that we all have social causes we are passionate about. But it is not that simple. Although it may seem like a thing common, not everyone is currently moved towards pursuing a socially oriented cause, nor does everyone possess an area of passion.
Some people are socially impassive and uninterested in issues that are socially and politically relevant. Things like injustice, human rights, advocacy, community action, inequality, youth empowerment, public value, reform, social impact and so many others, sound abstract to people who barely keep up with the news or societal trends.
In cases where things go wrong in society — with people’s rights ignored, tax payers’ monies squandered or saved for one man’s generational wealth, violence against women and girls multiplying exponentially, youths in the streets without jobs, political elections dreaded due to bloodshed, workers being mistreated and people dying from preventable diseases — some are not invested in finding solutions.
Beginning from your neighborhood, the world would be a better place if people (especially young people) showed much more interest in public good rather than personal gain.
Personal gain, greed, fear of criticisms and harassment, lack of incentives, and much more have deterred some young people from advocating for issues of social concern. It is, however, a reality that withdrawing from civic responsibility and proactiveness in social issues does not provide any form of solution; instead it entraps us to wallow deeper in corruption, violence, preventable deaths, poverty, and illiteracy.
What it means to be an activist
By taking a step higher and becoming an action taker sums up what it means to become an activist.
Activism comprises efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform, with a desire to make changes in society towards a perceived greater good. It requires us to identify scars in society and attempt to fix them.
All it really takes to be an activist is to take up an active role in contributing to societal progress for public good. That’s simple.
You could be an activist by volunteering for social impact projects, writing to spur up action, using music and creative art, leading rallies and campaigns, engaging leaders and communities in fruitful conversations, giving a voice to an oppressed individual, petitioning decision makers, educating people, and so many other countless ways. As long as your action does not break the law, incite rage or cause harm to others, then there is no hard rule to how creative and fervent you can be.
Perhaps you are yet to be inspired to become an activist
Here are some stats that might spur you to action.
- 783 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day.
- 1 out of 9 people live in chronic hunger everyday, including 90 million children under age 5.
- 68% of the global disease burden from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is accounted for by Africa, which has only 4% of the world’s health workforce.
- More than 130 million girls of primary and secondary school age are out of school worldwide
- 155 countries have at least one law that discriminates against women.
- 1.2 billion people live without any access to electricity at all.
- 22.5 million jobs need to be created every year in Africa from now til 2035 in order for every youth to be employed.
- Only 1 African country publishes enough budget information to allow citizens to effectively monitor government spending.
We can never be too immune from the ripple effect of injustice, racism, gender-based violence, poor healthcare, government looting, and unemployed furious youths. The COVID-19 pandemic alone reveals how no individual or country can escape a health crisis unless an action that covers everyone, everywhere is put in place.
Do not be among the lot who neglect civic responsibility. Instead become a proponent for change. Discover your area of passion, merge it with your unique strengths and you would be amazed by the results.
3 good reasons to become an activist
1. It is fulfilling: Whether it’s taking children off the streets or ensuring leaders are accountable for every dime, supporting a social cause comes with a special kind of fulfillment; one that multiplies with the smiles we put on others.
2. It helps you grow: Being a social change maker helps you discover potential in yourself and identify areas for improvement whether it be your communication style, leadership skills, or technical skills.
3. It provides opportunities: A lot of opportunities are out there for social change agents who are not deterred from lending their voice and amplifying those of others for public good. Grants, trainings, fellowships, scholarships, and awards are just a few on the list.
Becoming an activist is rewarding. Little acts of kind deeds matter just as much as a 100-man campaign rally.
I long for a generation of youths who optimize their youthful days in order to reap the benefits in the future.
We are over 1.8 billion young people in the world today and can boast of a better future only if we take action in society and influence positive change. It all begins with a single action. So act now.