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.
It is a extreme statement. The optimist within me is screaming, “DON’T SAY THAT!”
But I say it for a reason.
I say it because the events in South Africa have highlighted this fact.
[Disclaimer:This is a cynical, opinionated article. I know. I’m sorry. But we all just need a rant once in awhile.]
What I’ve noticed in the society where I live, is that human behaviour works in trends. People always seem to revert back to the same behaviour, if not enough intervention occurs – and this has been exactly the case for xenophobia in South Africa – it is something that has been a pertinent issue from 2008, and yet again this hatred of foreigners is resurfacing. A part of me feels like it never stopped.
This brings me to another factor influencing how we perceive this issue: the media. So often, we only perceive reality to be what we read in the newspapers – and somehow we sort of just follow the media’s trend to focus on some issues, and we forget about things. I mean, think about whether you know what went down in Crimea? And how there is still conflict in Palestine, even though we don’t see it in the newspapers.
A part of me thinks that something similar has happened with xenophobic attacks in South Africa. If we’re honest, the government didn’t really do much to stop the attacks in 2008. They almost seemed to ‘disappear’ – an the scary thing is that this isn’t what happened; not at all. These stories ‘disappeared’ because the media found something better to report on – there was something else that was a new, sensational story that would sell papers. Be read on websites. Sell advertising space.And now, almost 7 years down the line, we’re back here: a trigger almost seemed to ‘reignite’ this hatred, meanwhile the hatred was there the whole time. It is scary.
This then brings me back to society, and how we react to the issue. If we’re lucky, the horrific pictures, videos and statistics will shock us! How could humans do this to other humans! We protest, pressure government, and it feels like this is the only cause we care about, just for a while.
However, in the majority of cases, this initial uproar fades. It may be because of time, or it may be because another, new, even more horrible issue comes into focus.
And we forget.
That’s if we’re lucky.
If we’re unlucky, the story doesn’t affect us. We read another “just another rape case” or “just another murder”, and we forget that that is someone’s friend; sister; brother; loved one. What happened to empathy?
I suppose here could come another essay on the reasons why we have lost this empathy when hearing these stories, or why we just forget: many blame the constant bombardment of information that we receive. Either way, it will be a complex analysis.
So rather than getting into all of that, I would rather challenge you to be the person that changes how society operates. Don’t just brush off these stories. Don’t just forget. Find something that you’re passionate about, something that fires your soul to TAKE ACTION – and define the new new norm.
On my first day of university, I learnt about the origin of the universe (casually; as one does).
It simply blew my mind.
What I can’t stop thinking about now, over a week later is what a miracle it all is. It is utterly amazing that the very particular sequence of millions of events which resulted in our existence – the cosmic singularity, hydrogen converting to helium, supernova explosions and so forth – all happened as precisely as they have.
The probability is ridiculously slim. Thus, I say it is a miracle.
So now I have formed the awe-inspiring habit of really trying to take it all in. Even when I’m feeling sick or grumpy, I just try to look around, and realise that the utter fact of existence is enough to be celebrated. And it’s s easy to be reminded of that, staying in Cape Town.
For every meal, I have to walk up a bit of a hill to our brother residence, and on the way there is the most spectacular view of Devil’s Peak, and Table Mountain to the left. Every single mealtime, it makes me stop. The crevices in the rock, the way clouds tango with the peaks: it reminds that I am alive, on this profound planet in the middle of a stupendously giant universe that extends into infinity.
From the Big Bang, to my birth – I am grateful for everything that brought me to this precise moment in time, because in this moment lies all possibilities. Think about it.
The media has been exploding. Normally, that would irk me. However, I feel that Nelson Mandela’s death is such a colossal event that it deserves all the coverage it is getting. He was the father of the nation we know today. So, I’m going to add my voice to the many others, as a young South African.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Humans tend to believe that it takes more than one person to change the world; that just one person can’t make a difference. However, I argue that our Nelson Mandela defied such a rule. He was one man. He created great change. He was a beacon of hope for South Africans who had become acclimatised to oppression under Apartheid. Without his gentleness, our nation would never have transitioned to democracy so smoothly. Some feared civil war, yet peace was found. I may not have been alive to see this at play, yet STILL in South Africa – I can see the impact that this one man had on lives of ordinary people. He shaped the country I live in today.
It is a tragedy that our Tata is no longer with us – a hero has fallen. Yet, I think that with being melancholy, we need to celebrate the life that Madiba had, and that was quite a life indeed. In his 95 years, he experienced oppression from the hateful National Party, became the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he persevered through 27 years in prison and then went on to become the first black president of South Africa. What still flabbergasts me is that through all of this, he had unwavering humility and courage.
If you look at politics, it is very seldom that a leader comes about who is truly great enough to see the potential of a nation, beyond selfish intent and current hindrances. The leaders of South Africa today seem to have lost this humility. Extreme views claim that now our country is going to deteriorate without our father Madiba watching over us. I, however, challenge that. I believe that we can still follow the beacon of light which Mandela illuminated – it is up to us, seemingly ordinary citizens, to realise the power we hold in our country. If we do this, we can continue to create ripples of change.
So, here’s to the life of a man whose soul shall always be superior. May our Madiba rest in peace, as his life created peace for so many others. I hope that among all of the upset, this momentous occasion can be a reminder of the greatness of a man who was the key to the democratic South Africa in which I now reside – a man whose selflessness and optimism touched the lives of millions.
We love you, Tata.
The whole Global Warming and Climate Change movement has become a bit cliched. The media has blown it entirely out of proportion, causing people who don’t even know the facts or the science behind it all to either be completely for or against it. There’s no moderation. That’s why we need to educate people, and realise that we should go green and respect our planet, not because an apocalypse might happen otherwise, but because it’ll prolong our existence here.
Recently, when I was at a workshop at the South African Institute of International Affairs, I came across a programme, called the Environmental Sustainability Project which is basically like a research paper for the youth to do, looking at and linking three different aspects of the environment in relation to going green. I, having quite a ‘change the world’ mentality, was immediately interested, and in doing the research, I’ve learnt and discovered so much more than I could have imagined.
My paper focuses on Climate Change, how we need to develop sustainably to mitigate it, and furthermore looking at how women’s role in agricultural production is integral for that. Sounds boring to some of you? I actually would have thought so too. BUT – how everything links to each other is incredible. Women make up more than half of the farmers in Africa, and often get given a huge workload because their husbands have to become migrant workers. These women then have to do the farming, household chores and look after the children. The scary thing: tonnes of farming policy makers stereotype farmers to be men, detrimenting these poor women further. So helping them farm sustainably would protect the environment (linking to Climate Change), and make sure their children – our future generations – know how to do the same.
(Warning: slight feminist rant ahead)
The most amazing part of it all is that women are actually extremely important, in so many aspects. If we educate them, they will be able to get jobs, having children later on. According the the UN, girls in developing countries who receive seven years of schooling have more choices in life: marrying an average of four years later and having 2.2 fewer children. They also are raising our future generation, and if we educate them, they can educate their children about things like being green.
I say, half of the world’s problems are caused by men (petrol companies, industry) and the other half can be solved by focusing on women (education, overpopulation and resource limitations).
So I guess what whoever is reading this can gather from the above, is not only are women important ;), but by me, just one teenage girl, looking into issues and doing some research, I’ve generated pretty good (if I do say so myself) solutions to the world’s problems – at least some of them. Point is, If ALL people, ALL ages, ALL classes, did a bit more research into Earth’s issues, rather than just taking the media’s word for it, we’d have a lot more informed, passionate, conscious people and a lot more solutions.
If that was at all inspirational, and you’re feeling like you want to get some research and reading done, here are a few cool places to start:
5 Reasons You Should Care About Girls’ Education – http://www.unfoundation.org/blog/5-reasons.html
Seeds of Change (an awesome initiative involving African women in agriculture) – http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/impact/food-security
Women’s Environment & Development Organisation’s take on sustainable development – http://www.wedo.org/category/themes/sustainable-development-themes