How to change the world?

Happy Africa Day, everyone!

This day has me thinking.

First of all, we can use today to celebrate all that our continent has achieved – to focus on the continent; to realise that step by step, we are breaking out of the perception that Africa is ‘poor’ or ‘lesser.’ So here’s to the people and structures that are positively contributing to our society! You have the power! Let’s rejoice in this!

“Africa leads the world in female representation in parliaments and the continent has one of the highest rates of female entrepreneurship. Let us be inspired by these successes and intensify efforts to provide Africa’s women with better access to education, work and health care and, by doing so, accelerate Africa’s transformation,” – Ban Ki-Moon

So, it’s great to reflect on the progress that we’re making. But another question that I have to ask myself, as an aspiring African-of-impact (if you will), is what more can I be doing to create a better continent. “Activism” is great: I love speaking about change on social media, or television, or at conferences, but I often feel removed from the situations I am talking about.

And even though I do try to become more involved in these communities through (as I hate to term it) “volunteer work”, I feel like it’s not enough. Okay cool, so I coach kids debating once a week, but then I go back to my pretty privileged life, and think of it as removed from the situations that I volunteer in.

I would say a goal of my life is to feel like the change that I DISCUSS, or want to see happen (when drafting resolutions, or after ‘working groups’), is also change that I IMPLEMENT in some way. And at the moment, I am itching to get there. As it stands, I feel like my attempts to change policy, or raise awareness about social issues are somewhat hypocritical as I am not implementing them myself, or seeing it through that these policy changes are implemented.

So yes, I feel like I’m in a pickle, but I’m also not here to just complain about it, and go on being in the same pickle.

I think I’m going to start small. See a policy change that’s been suggested/implemented; follow it to the root; see what’s being done; if nothing, question the people who are supposed to get things done.

It’s a process, really. So I’m going to have to take it step by step.

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Injustice: the detention of child migrants

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interviewing the boys

We think that brutal human rights violations are far away from us, like all the way in the Middle East or in central Africa. Their stories are in the news occasionally, amongst multitudes of political banter. Scenarios of torture and murder are too intimidating to tackle, so we keep to our own world.

 

In our society, it seems like these stories don’t even have a human face. The terror of Kony 2012, as well as the brutal murder of Anene Boysen have been forgotten about because the media deems them as less important, because they don’t sell enough newspapers.

 

Sometime in September last year I received a phone call from my editor at the Children’s News Agency about a campaign that would alter my perspective of rights violations forever. The campaign is called ‘End Immigration Detention of Child Migrants,’ and aims to stop the arrests of children seeking refuge in countries without the correct paperwork.

 

I got the opportunity to interview two boys from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had been detained entering South Africa. They’re my age, yet they had to flee the DRC to escape being forced to join the rebel group as a child soldier. They were arrested as soon as they reached the border and taken to Lindela, a detention centre where, according to them, there is an infestation of lice and confined spaces which made them contemplate suicide.

 

Luckily, Lawyers for Human Rights came to their rescue and they were saved from being deported back to the DRC. Meeting these boys was eye-opening, and what got me the most was the fact that after they had been treated so terribly, they were hopeful about South Africa – what a lesson of positivity and resilience to learn. These boys got their happy ending.

 

Last Friday, I spoke about this experience at a Lawyers for Human Rights event where they screened a short film about child detention, and it really impacted me, because these children are just like me, some are as young as five, yet they have no concept of freedom. It was great to address the audience there and really make them think about the issues, and inspire them to actively fight against human rights violations.

 

There are many children still in these situations, and still millions of people around the world experiencing human rights violations every day. I say it is time to do something, whether it’s as simple as writing meaningful stories, reading them with a conscience or even getting involved with organisations in your community.

Here is the full article which was published in the City Press, followed by the link to information about the global campaign:

Article – http://www.childrensnewsagency.org/articles/entry/inside-lindela-the-childrens-stories

Campaign – http://endchilddetention.org/