Activist Corner

Now that you know more about your own and others’ rights not to be discriminated against, you might feel inspired to spread the word and speak up whenever you face unjust situations. Luckily there are plenty of ways to do so! Here are some suggestions.

Participate in demonstrations
Hit the streets! Demonstrations are gatherings of people who either march collectively or just assemble in order to show support for (or opposition to) a particular cause. To find out if there are any upcoming demonstrations for the causes that interest you, simply search the web using relevant key words. Organisers are keen on spreading the word, so information about time and location should be easily accessible.
If you yourself want to arrange a demonstration for a particular cause, you might want to involve others who share your opinion. Advertising the event on Facebook is an effective way of getting the word out but printed leaflets can also get the job done – try leaving them at places where your target group is likely to go such as schools, cafés, cinemas or sports associations.

Write a letter of protest
If you’re unhappy with a current situation or issue – perhaps your government passed a new law that you don’t agree with, or maybe your school implemented a rule that you feel is unfair – you can voice your thoughts by scribbling them down in a letter of protest. You simply write a short letter (usually no more than one page) and send it to the relevant people – for instance a ministerial department or your school administration. If a great deal of letters of protest are received, an unpopular decision might be overturned.

Get involved on Facebook
The social media – in particular Facebook – is an effective and easy way to spread your message. In a matter of seconds you can write a fresh status update about a cause that interests you or post a link to an intriguing article on your wall. You are also able to join or “like” groups and events whose purpose you agree with, and you can easily create your own groups and events – such as petitions or demonstrations – and invite your friends to join. A lot of politicians have their own Facebook profile, so you may even contact them directly if you want to raise a certain issue.

Sign and create petitions
A petition is a collection of people’s signatures used to voice support or opposition towards a certain plan or project.. The traditional petition is a piece of paper that someone is passing around on the street for by-passers to sign but online petitions are also frequent. Facebook is often used to circulate online petitions and usually you “sign” it by typing your name and your e-mail address. Several webpages have now also made it possible for anyone to create and distribute online petitions, for example: www.petitiononline.com.

Start blogging
A blog is a kind of online diary where you write about anything you like. The big difference between a blog and a typical diary is that the content is made publicly available online. You can allow others to comment on your blog entries and thereby get a good debate going. During the 2011 uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa, many young people used their blogs to show the outside world some of the atrocities that were committed against them by their regimes. These entries and the photos were crucial in raising international support in favour of the public demonstrations.

Join an organisation or a political party
Maybe you feel like joining an organisation or a political party that share your cause. There are different ways of involving yourself. One way to support an organisation’s work is through a monthly donation but you could also offer your time and energy as a volunteer. Many organisations have a whole range of projects that are run by volunteers – look up relevant organisations online and check out their webpage to find an activity that suits you. You can also join a political party to help advance its political views.

Write a letter to the editor
Letters to the editor is a possibility for you to participate in the public debate by having your opinion printed in the local or national press. All you need to do is write a very short letter/email with your opinion and send it to a chosen newspaper or magazine that reserves space for such letters. Your letter can concern just about anything – from expressing your unhappiness with a particular tv-program or a newly proposed law. If you’re lucky someone will respond to your letter and this could be the beginning of an intense debate!

Participate in happenings
A happening is an unexpected event in a public place with the purpose of creating awareness for a particular issue. The organisers of the happening of course know what’s going to happen, but it should come as a surprise to the general public and have an immediate and dramatic effect. Happenings should be creative but non-violent. It could be street theatre or a so-called flash-mob where a lot of people agree to meet in a public place, perhaps a subway station or the city hall square, to carry out a short activity such as sudden collective dancing or laughing. News of upcoming flash-mobs are usually circulated on Facebook, so try searching for them there. You can also initiate a happening yourself and spread the word on Facebook.

Make a complaint
Whenever you read or hear something that you strongly disagree with – maybe something you consider to be offensive or outright discriminatory – you are able to complain to the sender of the message. Maybe you think that a program on TV or on the radio presents an unjustly negative view of homosexuals or it could be that a local newspaper wrote something about ethnic minorities that you find untrue or prejudiced. Then go ahead and write a complaint to the TV station, the radio or the newspaper and let them know how you feel. Often they will appreciate being made aware of any possible discrimination and they might even make a public apology!

Flash your statement
You can of course also make a very visible statement by printing your favourite slogan or punch line on a T-shirts or another piece of clothing. If you don’t have a shop nearby where they will print your design onto your t-shirt/socks/school bag, you can find plenty such companies online. Alternatively you can simply buy some special paint for clothes and do it yourself. Who knows – maybe your design will start a fashion trend and thereby spread your message!