Before I start off this article. You guys should know that I’m generally a pretty chill guy. But you know how some things trigger you? Like your sibling stealing the TV remote while you’re watching TV triggering you? That’s how enraged I get when I see people sympathizing with anti-minority groups in the country. You see I feel very strongly about Minority rights in Pakistan and like me, there are many other teenagers who feel strongly about other issues like women rights, illiteracy, etc. But honestly, it’s hard to proactively pursue activism when most Human Rights NGOs (like Amnesty international) don’t accept participants below 18. So if you’re a teen who wants to start making a difference in the world, here are some ways I think you can start.
DISCLAIMER: All of the things mentioned in this article are my own opinions on different matters and all of the examples are of my own personal experiences.
Awareness campaigns are very effective if you want to convey your message to a large audience. The reason I say this is because with awareness campaigns people don’t really have to make an effort to contribute to your cause. Instead all they have to do is listen to your arguments. For example, we held a Mental Health Campaign on World Mental Health Day in which we put up posters throughout the campus and held an informative seminar during the break. We talked about how stigmatized mental health is in society and how big of an issue it is. And to my surprise.It worked! We didn’t have space to accommodate the scores of students who showed up at the seminar and in the end, countless numbers of students came out and talked about their struggles with mental health even though I thought no one would show up. The reason I’m telling you this is to tell you that you can do the same! If you feel strongly about an issue in society then approach your school, put up posters about it at campus, write about it, and give a speech in your morning Assembly. I mean there’s so much you can do within your campus. And who knows. Out of the 100 students you approach perhaps one would change his/her mind about the issue. And I say that even if one person changes his/her mind then it’s totally worth it!
Social Media Stories and tweets.
Here’s when it gets a bit controversial. Whenever I talk about people using social media to raise their voice against anything there’s always the question of how effective social media can be.After all, you ranting about a matter on your instagram story won’t really do much right? Wrong! You posting a hashtag, you tweeting your opinion, you sharing another person’s post can do a lot. I’ll give my example here. Honestly I didn’t think much about feminism or women rights in Pakistan about an year ago. I knew our society had underlying problems against women but that’s pretty much it. I didn’t think about it much. However, when I followed my senior, Vaneeza Jawad (who’s literally the strongest feminist I know) and read her instagram stories. I saw that feminists — regardless of me not calling myself a feminist — do have some very valid points when it comes to things like the patriarchal structure of our society, assaults on women, etc. Hence, your stories do have an impact on people. However, there’s a thin rope to walk on here. Unnecessary ten page rants on your instagram stories don’t do much except for me having to excessively tap on the screen to skip to the next story. If you really want to get your point across. Just give a brief paragraph, a few lines on it or post a symbolic picture/poster and that’s it! I mean think about it. If I am a misogynistic guy why would I read a ten page story on which struggles women face. On the other hand however, I might read a few lines or see a poster about it as I tap through my feed. So remember, share things on your feeds, post statuses about it, voice your opinions but make them brief!
Talk about it with your peers:
Learn to discuss stuff with your friend groups to spark a debate on the matter and get their opinions. This point is pretty simple. Once you discuss what you feel passionate about within your social gatherings you get to see a range of different opinions on the matter which is essential if you want to understand how to change people’s mindsets. In my case, I had a friend who belonged to a heavily persecuted religious minority in our country. Let’s call him David(since I’m sure most of you don’t know a David in Pakistan). David would often talk about his experiences of growing up being ashamed of his own identity. He would talk about events which the mainstream media wouldn’t cover. He would tell us about what kinds of things him and his family have to go through. And its partially because of David that I feel that religious discrimination in our country is one of the largest issues we face as a society. Hence, if you want to make a difference then start with those closest to you.
Join an NGO!
Firstly I think there’s a lack of NGOs who want teenagers to work on Human Rights. Correct me if I’m wrong but Human Rights NGOs like Amnesty International do not accept people under 18.However, there are numerous other NGOs working on other issues like education,food scarcity,etc. A while back I joined an internship at the Door of Awareness, a NGO working on providing free education to underprivileged kids in Model Town. The experience was mind blowing and the kids were the sweetest(sweeter than most A Level students at campus). Hence, I think all of us should work in a NGO at least once so we can get hands on practical experiences into the issues we have in our country.
Class of 2020