In a democratic society such as our own we don’t think twice about voicing our disatisfaction. Whether its about a politican we think is dogdy or a new bill we believe is not in our best interests, we always find a way to let the world know we don’t approve. However, in many poor nations people don’t always have that opportunity. Suffering, not from the injustices of a small tax increase but from extreme hunger and a complete lack of job opportunities, many of the world’s poorest must endure in silence. This is where activisim of advocacy comes into hand. Advocacy or activism is not about raising funds but about raising awareness. Activism calls on us to speak out on the behalf of the poor, as the saying goes ‘give a voice to the voiceless.’ It’s a chance for us in the developed world to use our free voices to bring change to the lives of those who should live so much better and it really does make a difference.
Why is it important?
Whether or not you think protesting works, activism, if done by enough people, can bring about major change, draw attention to the plight of others and convince the government to do something about world poverty. In the 21st century, image is everything. If a politican is bombarded with enough letters about cancelling debts in third world countries he will try to solve the situation rather than lose voter confidence and popularity. If a major designer recieves enough bad press about using slave labour in poor nations, they will start paying their workers before they risk losing business and damaging their brand name. If enough people shout loud enough the message will and does get through. Sure, activism won’t change the world in a single day, but it is a small act that can help make the world a little bit better. In remaining silent we are giving in to those who discriminate others. But by speaking out we are saying that we care about those who are poorer than us and we want to make a difference.
How to become an active advocate:
There are so many different ways to get active for the world’s less fortunate. Whether you have a week to spare or just a few minutes, there is a way to make your voice heard by those who need to hear it the most.
1. Lobbying politicans:
Like it or not it’s the world’s politicans who call the shots. In 2004 constant lobbying by active citizens forced the UK government to raise it’s aid budget by 9 per cent per year. In 2008 the UK government gave £1.25 billion to aid agencies in Africa. But lobbying politicans isn’t just about engaging in peaceful protests outside parliment. It’s also about writing letters, signing petitions or sending postcards to maintain pressure on the government and make them aware about the plight of the poor. One letter may not seem much but it’s all it takes to get one politican thinking about something he might never have considered. And if you don’t make your voice heard, how will your government know you want them to make a difference?
Campaigning can mean a million different things. It can mean being part of a petition to abolish teen homelessness or drawing attention to the low wages paid by a local business. Just by joining a demonstration or becoming part of a group that aims to fight poverty you can do your bit. Campaigning is all about letting other people know about those being exploited, so try to get stories published in your local newspaper or find out about groups who are making a difference is your area and lend a hand. Even your local church, regardless of what faith, is a key player in social change and might need someone to lend a hand if you ask.
The internet has created a whole new world for activism which is perfect even for the most time starved advocate. E-campaigning is sharper, faster and more effective, reaching more people than traditional lobbying ever could. Because almost everyone has the internet, campaign groups are now no more than a web search away. Information can be spread quicker and thanks to a number of online news sources such as Oneworld.net we are hearing stories about the poor that we might never have heard decades ago. E-campaigning is so effective because people can write a letter and email it all in one afternoon. A politican can get your message in a second and you no longer have to worry about addressing a letter or buying a stamp. With a guide to help you write a letter to government or a business, online organisations ensure that your individual opinion is heard by the people you want to hear it. In fact, campaiging online has become so popular that online organisation Advocacy Online claims someone takes action on their site every four minutes. When getting active is so easy and so quick, there’s no reason why anyone can’t simply search online for their cause of choice and lend their voice to helping others.
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