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ten facts about social activism
Social activism is a purposeful action with the mission of bringing about lasting social change. Anyone with a cause that they feel passionate about can become a social activist if they work to create effective and positive change. Social activism generally refers to working to right the wrongs of unjust practices affecting humans, such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar or the separation of families at the United States and Mexico border by immigration officers. However, activists can work to create change with any cause, including environmental activism and animal activism. These 10 facts about social activism will provide information on the evolution of activism, as well as careers relating to social activism.

10 Facts About Social Activism

  1. The social services industry works to address the direct needs of individuals, while social activism deals with uncovering the root cause of a negative issue impacting a group of people. A social activist may use various techniques to bring light to an issue, either through advocacy campaigns to raise public awareness on an issue, or by coordinating help to aid an affected population. Social activism deals more heavily with bringing light and change to societal issues.
  2. Social activism has changed drastically with the rise of social media. For example, the civil rights movement had mostly peaceful demonstrations and protests and is still one of the most successful social activism campaigns. Nowadays, social media has become a key player in social activism. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have taken over the role of advocacy and are very successful in bringing light to social justice issues by providing accessible information across the world.
  3. A survey that the Pew Research Center carried out found that 69 percent of Americans believe that online platforms are essential for successful social activism campaigns. Americans believe that online platforms accomplish various political goals such as getting the attention of legislators and creating sustained movements for social change. There is a debate over slacktivism versus social media activism. Slacktivism is the belief that social media leads to passive activism.
  4. The same survey found that certain demographics of social media users – most notably African and Latino Americans – see these platforms as an essential tool for their own political expression and activism. Around half of all African American social media users state that these platforms are at least somewhat important for them to express their political views. Many minorities feel that social media allows them to be more active in speaking up for their own rights. Those views fall to about one-third of all white social media users.
  5. Organizations, corporations and government agencies are frequent targets for social activists aiming to influence society by altering established practices and policies. Activists may use techniques such as naming and shaming to bring about social change. Naming and shaming is when a group or organization calls out another group for unethical practices. An example of this is when the United States placed sanctions on South Africa for apartheid. The sanctions shamed South Africa and brought this issue to the attention of the international community.
  6. One can place activists into two categories depending on their relationship to an organization. Insider activists are employees of a targeted organization. They have certain benefits and challenges compared to outsider activists who are members of independent social activism movements. Insider activists are also called whistleblowers and they expose unethical practices happening within the organization they are a part of.
  7. Activists may use boycotts and protests to target businesses and get them to change their practices or behaviors. Boycotts are successful in targeting businesses as they cut them off from economical transactions and limit their profits. Businesses will often adhere to the demands of customers if the boycott is large enough to severely impact them. Therefore, boycotts are an effective way of getting businesses to change their business models to something more ethical that pleases their consumer base.
  8. Millennials are often socially active consumers as they consider the ethics of their products before purchasing. The shoe brand Toms promises to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Paper straws have also become a popular environmental alternative to the traditional plastic straw. The clothing brand Reformation claims to be the most sustainable option in clothing second to being nude. Millennial consumption habits have created a whole market for sustainable and ethical products.
  9. There are many careers that incorporate some elements of social activism, with careers in law and public policy creating change through human rights law, lobbying and public interest law. Careers in government and international relations can bring one into agencies such as the State Department or the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), as well as international organizations like the United Nations. Community organizers empower and develop local community leadership to enable them to meet community needs, ranging from clean water to better education. Careers in nonprofit organizations, like Save the Children or CARE, both of which provide humanitarian assistance to developing countries, are also great paths to go down.
  10. There are certain skills that make individuals qualified for a career in social activism. Individuals must be able to work with a diverse array of people, have excellent communication skills and be able to speak persuasively. Strong writing and critical analysis skills are also helpful, in order to strategize and envision an improved society.

These 10 facts about social activism show the evolution of activism with the rise of modern technology and social media. The form and pace of social activism will continue evolving to keep up with changing technologies. Technology and social media have sped up the exchange of information and knowledge, which largely contributes to the basis of many worldwide social activism campaigns.

Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in PalestineGaza is one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, with 1.8 million people confined in a 140-mile radius. The only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is insufficient for the needs of the population. Water access and water quality in Palestine leaves a lot to be desired.

The World Bank reported on the poor water quality in Palestine, as well as the lack of access to sanitation services that reached crisis proportions.

Due to said conditions, Palestinians in Gaza are forced to over-extract water from the Coastal Aquifer in order to stay alive. They obtain water at a rate equivalent to twice the aquifer’s yearly sustainable yield, causing the water to become contaminated.

In 2008, WHO estimated that 26 percent of diseases in Gaza were water-related, a statistic that could be higher now that 90-95 percent of Gaza water is polluted and unfit for human consumption.

Due to the contamination, high levels of nitrite were found in the groundwater at levels far above the WHO accepted guideline of 50mg per liter. Such dispersion has increased cases of methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder that impedes the flow of oxygen in young infants.

Why Palestinians in Gaza lack water facilities

The water quality in Palestine remains unsanitary due to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and military operations hinder the possibility of Palestinians restoring their water facilities.

Wells, cisterns and roof water tanks have been destroyed and damaged, most notably during the Israeli attacks in 2008 and 2014.

During the 2008 Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Israel caused U.S. $6 million worth of damage to Gaza’s water supply and wastewater facilities.

In 2014 the Israeli attack on Gaza resulted in heavy destruction of infrastructure; the total damage was estimated to be $4.4 billion and included water and sanitation facilities.

The loss of water facilities has had a lasting impact on the Palestinians in Gaza. The continued blockade by Israeli security forces prevents the import of equipment and spare parts needed to repair and improve the water supply and sanitation systems. Even simple sanitation items such as chlorine are not permitted.

Furthermore, water main and sewage conduits are routinely crushed by Israeli tanks and armored vehicles. Water tanks are also shot at and damaged by Israeli soldiers.

Addressing the issue through the BDS movement.

In 2007 Palestinians founded “Lifesource,” a collective working at the grassroots level to organize for water justice.

The mission of Lifesource is to:

  1. Educate Palestinians about their water rights and enable communities to take an active role in improving the situation.
  2. Promote and utilize nonviolent popular resistance tactics for the human rights to water and sanitation.
  3. Connect popular movements locally and globally to support Palestinian water rights.

In 2009 “Lifesource” partnered with the global campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Lifesource led a program called “BDS for Palestinian Water Justice,” supporting boycott divestment and eschewing sanctions that infringe on Palestinians right to water and sanitation.

The BDS Movement works to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to end the occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. By organizing demonstrations that target companies that have contracts with Israel, companies are pressured to break ties with Israel, thus deterring the country from continuing to occupy Palestine.

Their work led to some success: water companies profiteering from human rights violations, such as Eden Springs and Veolia, lost important contracts and had to downsize or close their doors.

Although Lifesource came to an end in 2012, the BDS movement is still up and running, giving Palestinians in Gaza hope that their basic human needs will continue to be addressed.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Bangladesh_Factory_worker_building_collapse_victims_dhaka_rescue_lost_families_garment_manufacturers_exporters_walmart_worker_opt

Until now, more than 1000 people are estimated to have been killed in the collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory. Statistics makes this accident one of the worst garment factory disasters in modern history. As governments, organizations, and conscientious consumers look for solutions and ways to prevent another catastrophic loss of life, some are considering the role a company or consumer boycott of clothing made in Bangladesh would have. But how should consumers respond? Is pushing for a boycott of Bangladeshi products really the solution? Experts differ on the possible effectiveness of such a move.

Professor Linda Scott at Oxford University says no:

The most obvious thing to do is to take away shopping dollars, and I do appreciate that shopping power, but I am just afraid that moves the problem someplace else. There is always another country that is happy to take on garment manufacturing. That is why it moves around so much. If the factories move elsewhere, it does not really solve the problem. It just moves misery somewhere else. And it takes away work from the people in Bangladesh.

Paul Collins of the British Anti-poverty Group War on Want also hesitates to endorse such a move:

We take our lead from our partner, the National Garment Workers’ Federation in Bangladesh, and they take their lead from the trade union members they support – mainly women – who say that these jobs should be decent jobs that are safe, pay a living wage and do not force them to work excessive hours. But they fear that a boycott campaign would mean they would lose their jobs. They come from rural areas and abject poverty, so they have not asked us to mount a boycott campaign.

Jamie Terzi, Bangladesh Country Director for CARE International, offered the following perspective:

I think for an incident of this magnitude to occur, we are talking about a systemic failure, where there are multiple responsibilities and, more strongly, culpabilities. It is not particularly helpful to pick one person or group, the problem is simply too large and too complex. It is absolutely the government; it is absolutely the people of Bangladesh calling on their government to be more accountable; it is up to the factory owners; it is up to the buyers and it absolutely is up to the consumers in Western countries.

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion emphasizes the same point made by Terzi:

Bangladesh is a very poor country so even if they wanted to implement changes there is not a lot of money to do so. We’re talking about a $500,000 (£320,000) investment per factory to get some of these changes implemented and the brands can afford it. The factories can’t. Consumers are ready for ethical fashion. They want to see fair labour standards implemented and abided by, and they would support it if the brands made headway on that.

For consumers, particularly those in the west, who decide to respond to the tragedy, all of these experts agree that there are a number of complex and interlocking issues to be considered here. Everyone, from governments, to multi-nationals, to consumers will have a role to play in developing a solution to save lives in the future.

– Délice Williams

Source: BBC, CBS
Photo: CNN