By Esihle Dayimani
According to the UN Women, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is “an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December.” Started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, #16DaysOfActivism continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Such campaigns are sustainable by nature because of consistency, organizing, and planning. The most important component would be “a sense of activism.” Often, people venture into the helping profession without altruism and certain causes end at them being just another hashtag. Whilst social media is one of the biggest platforms used for advocacy work, the work which needs to follow any proposed change is not on social media. Without the active agent with a will to implement proposed action plans, it’s just another hashtag.
Youth involvement in the implementation of policies or interventions geared at sustainable positive development is of utmost importance. Sometimes, there is a will to effect change but not enough support from the powers that be. This kills the sense of activism and drive that the youth have to contribute towards empowering their communities and all that’s left to do is to turn it into a hashtag. The downside of social media is that though it can raise awareness, it can also bring disrepute to organizations and individuals if practiced outside of what is legal.
ACTIVATE! Change Drivers has to date has provided around 4200 young South Africans with the training to change their lives, and the world they inhabit across all nine provinces from cities, rural areas, education levels, in diverse religious and sexual orientations and identities. The work which is led by youth in these areas is sustainable and is not limited to hashtags. However, there is lack of support from government in terms of how initiatives can be better funded and how youth can be educated on these processes.
Collaboration is thus key in addressing any social ills. Different people have different perspectives and skillsets – working together ensures that there is greater and consistent impact. This could account for why there are many great ideas but few of them being implemented, and why there are thousands of determined youth with no resources or support to develop their communities. The key lies in coming together for a common goal. Through organisations such as ACTIVATE! we are able to explore non-violent forms of protest action and how to hold leadership to account. We are also able to see youth advance to positions of power as witnessed in the #LGE2021.
Hope for the Future
My hope for the future is to live in a world that has some semblance of equality and also advances the rights of its citizens. Youth representation in parliament is one of the key factors of social change in South Africa especially if we follow the idea that the youth are the future. A transition into a society with fresh ideals geared towards economic freedom and sustainable development goals would see South Africa blossoming into a nation which serves its people – it won’t just be a hashtag.