International Women’s Day is Wednesday, March 8, and this year’s theme is all about activism. The organizers of the day — who are activists themselves — want you to #BeBoldForChange, challenging yourself to help effect positive change in the world. Whether it’s in your community or on a global scale, everyone can mold the world for the better through activism, but it’s not always easy. Activism takes persistence, patience and organization, which aren’t qualities that come naturally to everyone. That’s why we’ve asked eight young activists from across the world how they go about making change. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to making the world a better place in no time.
Aditi Sharma, 27, Nepal, Menstrual Hygiene Activist
“Activism to me means brining about a positive change in society through education and awareness. The goal is to liberate and empower a certain group of people to realize their human right and fight for it.
My journey as a menstrual hygiene activist started in 2011 after my visit to far west Nepal, where I witnessed women and girls suffering due to a natural physiological process like menstruation simply due to lack of awareness and access to proper menstrual hygiene products and facilities. As a menstrual hygiene activist and the co-founder of youth-led organization Kalyani, and I have faced challenges, from getting people to take the work seriously to first-time road blocks. My message to fellow youth advocates just starting out would be to be patient and persistent. As young people we are impatient and want quick results, but change takes time especially when it comes to practices that have been going on for generations. As activists, I think it’s important to keep on keeping on and take the message forward!”
Betty Barkha, 26, Fiji, Climate Change Activist
“Don’t give up. There is so much more that unites us all. Don’t let anything divide our collective strength. You are the movement!
Take care of you. My father once told me, at a very difficult time in my life: If someone was stuck in a deep pit in the ground, it wasn’t possible to get them out if I was stuck deep in it as well. This may sound cliché, but it worked wonders. Read a good book, take a break, think out loud, stay healthy, watch a silly movie – do what it takes to make you feel better.
Seek support. It really is OK to ask for support. Ask openly and honestly. We’re in a time where you have access to the world at your fingertips. You will not always get what you asked for, but you will hear back, I assure you.”
Catherine Nyambura, 28, Kenya, Abortion Rights Activist
“Define your activist principles and what guides your work. As a feminist, my work and interventions are guided by feminist principles.
Know your strengths and how can you leverage on that to advance your work. I use social and digital media as a preferred tool and platform because I love the opportunity it presents and it allows my creativity to thrive.
Identify your passion. I am very passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights, and I am glad to work on safe abortion advocacy – anytime, anywhere. This helps shape your professional perspective
Define where you get your resources, including information, peer support and inspiration from. For me, it has become all the young feminists working on safe abortion advocacy across the world, who are now friends and a source of strength.”
Franklin Gnanamuthu, 28, India, Contraception Activist
“To me, youth activism means that young people are not just limited to knowledge and awareness on socially relevant issues, but are actually taking initiatives to bring about a positive change. My advice for young activist hoping to make a difference would be:
Be bold: Young activists need to be bold, to voice their opinion and make their voices heard. We should not be demotivated by the negativity that surrounds us.
Be patient: We need to learn to be patient, because we often might not get to our intended outcome when we want.
Synergize: It is very important that young activists find like-minded people and synergize their efforts in achieving their common goal.”
Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, 30, Uruguay, Reproductive Rights Activist
“If you want to make change, you must:
Be bold. Have the courage to question all arguments based in authority, history, religion and practice. Do not take things for granted. Make sure to deconstruct what has been said and ask lots of questions. Question the ‘single story.’ Be critical of reality but also with yourself. Read, a lot.
Be creative. Problems might be complex so get ready to think outside the box! Imagine new ways to address the issues you are working on. Invent new ways of seeing, of approaching, design new lenses to look at reality.
Be relentless. Please, do not give up. Take care of yourself and learn to pick your battles but come back stronger and fiercer! Inaction is already a political stance that favors the status quo, so take charge and believe in the potential of shaping newer and better solutions.”
Nana Abuelsoud, 27, Egypt, Sexual and Reproductive Rights Activist
“My activism is how I word and present an issue and how far I travel to arrive at its resolution and/or deconstruction. As a young woman, I cannot help but see every single issue that affects me personally; to be the provocation of my work and action wholeheartedly. My feminist background has helped me become well aware of my influence in fieldwork awareness raising activities, especially those addressing direct beneficiaries/target groups. My personal aspirations and perception pick the issues I see most pressing rather than what is framed to be ‘more urgent’ than other issues, which often disregard young people’s wellbeing and agency because young people are not key actors in the decision making process.”
Olaoluwa Abagun, 25, Nigeria, Girls’ Education Activist
“First, making a difference is not a singular one-off action but a lifelong journey. I encourage young activists to tenaciously weave their journey of activism with little, bold steps everyday. Having big, hairy, audacious goals in your area of activism is great. However, always remember to celebrate the little waves of progress that your efforts create.
Also, it helps to be intentional about creating a circle of like-minded allies and establishing deep connections with fellow passionate young activists. The highway to change can be lonely sometimes and you would need all the support from changemakers who are walking in the same shoes.”
Rakibul Hasan, 23, Bangladesh, Early Forced Marriage Activist
“The word activism truly means to me a holistic idea – it benefits everyone. Activists are not bosses; they work back and forth and engage others wherever fitted to achieve collective objectives for their communities.
One thing I would tell the young activists is to never give up. Sometimes it is quite challenging to continue, but, golden rule: stick to it. Talk to your peers and mentors who support you to help you because they’ve already walked a similar pathway.
If you don’t live there, be sure to travel to your home community and work to prioritize their challenges into your efforts. Be proactive rather than reactive, because we all know that peace requires voice and action.”