June 20, 2021

Youth Month: Dr Shakira on how to amplify your cause

The 16th June marks the day in 1976 when young people stood up to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.  In our generation, we see powerful young women around us, such as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg fighting for climate justice, or Zulaikha Patel standing up against racist hair policies at Pretoria High School.

You’ve probably witnessed injustice of some sort, for example bullying in your school or online, seen a friend of family member experience violence or even experienced discrimination/racism yourself. The first step is being conscious about the injustices around us- sometimes, we have the opportunity to call it out and put a stop to it immediately. Other times this becomes our cause, our purpose and our life-long battle. We may have one or many causes that we’re passionate about.

If we want to see a better world, we need to start by addressing the injustices we see and experience. You can amplify your causes by:

Approaching your community

Approaching your community, especially community leaders to get involved and behind your cause, will increase your cause’s visibility. The more people who are advocating towards something, the more likely it’ll be noticed. A collective movement is stronger than an individual voice.

Bringing awareness

You can create posters or hand out flyers at events that attract lots of people. These include holiday celebrations, community events and even flea markets. You can also organise a peaceful protest or post about your cause on social media.

Getting the media involved

Reaching out to local or national newspapers and radio stations is one of the biggest steps you can take in amplifying your cause. Visit your local library to do an internet search on radio stations and newspapers. Most media companies have contact details or email addresses that you can write to.

Creating petitions

The internet has made it easy for anyone to create a petition. Why not try create a petition with a target and signatures for your cause? If you don’t have access to the internet, you can visit a library or internet café for assistance.

These initiatives are not expensive. In our generation, the creation of a hashtag on social media can raise awareness and even get policymakers’ and the world’s attention, for example #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo.

One of my role models, Aunt Sophie De Bruin who led the Women’s March 1956 in South Africa sat down with me for coffee and told me how they walked over 30 kilometres to organise and meet people for the Women’s March, and how they sold vetkoeks to raise money.

If you’re passionate about a cause, and not afraid to stand up when no one else is, there’re no reason to wait. South Africa and the world needs more of us who are activists- whether it’s for health, gender, climate change, education, non-discrimination and so many other issues.

You can also check out the Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here, which governments around the world have adopted and are working towards to inspire you. Every Choma has a role to play.

I remember the days vividly, when I was about twelve years old, I would hold my father’s hand during his visits to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Nurses treated him badly, or as we waited in long lines for medication, even the bathrooms were filthy. It was terrible to see the state of our healthcare facilities and I knew then that when I grew up, I wanted to change this. I wanted patients to experience quality healthcare and be respected. My life’s work is centred on better healthcare- what is your purpose, what drives you each day?

About the author: Dr Shakira Choonara is an award-winning independent public health practitioner, 2017 Woman of the Year in Health in South Africa and a bold health activist. Tweet @ChoonaraShakira

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

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