As LGBTQI+ advocacy and campaigns lead at CIVICUS – a global alliance of organisations and activists dedicated to supporting citizen action and civil society – Mawethu Nkosana empowers people to make a difference.
Find a network
Our mission at CIVICUS is to help strengthen civil society – groups working in the interest of citizens but operating outside of the Governmental and for-profit sectors – across the world. We are an alliance of over 10,000 members and I am proud to be among change-makers responding in creative ways to the needs of society. We use our platform to show solidarity with civil society organisations and activists, and to amplify marginalised voices. We also make sure that grassroots organisations and partners can access various regional and international human rights bodies, such as the UN.
Start at home
It may be a cliché, but change really does begin at home. I firmly believe that the political is personal, and your home and local community are the first important sites for activism. For example, a commitment to climate change starts with you checking your own carbon emissions and being aware of how you can change your own life for the better. To tackle gender-based violence, we need to start by examining the dynamics at home and in our local communities before looking at the wider world.
Civil society organisations and activists are important agents for change. By working together and creating the communities we want to live in, we shape the world. Civic education is critical because when people are empowered about their rights, they can hold governments accountable. Learn about the laws governing your state and community, research the institutions responsible for delivering services, and always speak up about any social injustices.
Make your voice heard
Active citizenship can take various forms: co-ordinating interest groups for a specific cause; organising rallies or protests to highlights concerns; volunteering at public-interest organisations; drafting petitions – a method that’s been critical in reversing regressive laws and addressing community concerns; or even offering your services during an election to make sure they're free and fair. Active citizenship is about taking back power and having your voice heard.
Be a digital activist
The digital space has broadened the possibilities for engagement and activism. There are limitations – some governments are imposing stringent laws against internet freedom and digital engagement in response to virtual spaces supporting freedom in expression and solidarity – but hashtags can change the world. We've seen this with movements like #MeToo. Campaigners and activists are constantly exploring ways of maximising support and reach. So start that hashtag and speak back.
Build a better world
If citizens are active in a society, the community will benefit. Shared interest in a community’s wellbeing, coupled with an unwavering commitment to its values and principles, can bring about connectedness and change. If people are involved in forming laws, then the crime rate may even decrease. When it comes to minority groups, citizen participation can lead to an increase in tolerance because people are integrated in a group and work is done collectively as a community. Shared histories are formed, which bring people together.
Mawethu Nkosana is LGBTQI+ advocacy and campaigns lead at CIVICUS
Join CIVICUS's #StandAsMyWitness campaign to help defend human rights around the world