Much has been said and written, including in this space, about global challenges we now face. At times during the past year it felt that progress made in building a better world had stalled, or worse, was actively being dismantled. This was especially true for women and the most vulnerable. From the vitriol on social media to real world policy decisions that are rolling back human rights, cynicism is understandable.
Yet as this New Year starts, there are reasons to celebrate. The UN’s 16 Days of Activism to end gender-based violence call to #HearMeToo was embraced by global citizens around the world. Crossroader Sierra Nallo joined the call with Memo to my fellow millennials: don the responsibility of your global citizenship – published in the Toronto Star and Vancouver Province.
In Ghana, where Crossroads volunteers have worked with partners for many years to increase access to justice for survivors, the 16 days campaign ended with the launch of the first Model Child Friendly Court; a Gender-based Violence Court at the Supreme Court of Ghana to support children who have experienced violence access justice.
Raising your voice or raising your hand to support grassroots engagement and advocacy helps. It inspires hope. It facilitates change. So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here’s my list of 5 ways to engage in the effort to advance human rights, eliminate poverty, confront climate change, and fight for the issues you care about.
1. BE INFORMED
In the era of “fake news” and social media manipulation, it can be daunting to seek out facts and evidence from credible sources to ensure a solid understanding of complex issues. It is worth the time. It may be a cliché, but knowledge is power. If we are going to advance ideas that can change the world for the better, we must know the context.
2. CHALLENGE HATE
Online trolls and, more disturbingly, coordinated messengers of hate on social media cause harm. Violent rhetoric can invoke physical violence. Words matter. We have seen it in the communities where we work overseas, and we have seen examples in our country. Whether the attacks are directed far away or close to home, over the Internet or in person, we must confront hateful expression in all its forms and stand in solidarity with all who want peace and equality.
3. SPEAK UP AND ADVOCATE TO POLICY MAKERS
Crossroads support of women and men advocating to advance their human rights, as well as the futures of their children and communities is delivering results. In many parts of the world advocacy can put you in harms way. We salute the bravery of our partners throughout Africa and Bolivia for their tireless advocacy to advance equality. Crossroads volunteers in Canada are also speaking up. Check out former Deputy Prime Minster Anne McLellan’s powerful op-ed on the pressures facing women seeking access to justice ; and Board Chair Susan Watts’s case for increased investment in programs that strengthen rights for women and girls. MP Rob Oliphant’s Statement in the House of Commons honours the contributions of Crossroads and its volunteers. We can honour the efforts of so many in the South and elsewhere by advocating to our Canadian policy makers to better support with words and funds those who do not enjoy the same level of rights, of access to basic services, and are at threat of violence. With this year being an election year, it is a particularly important time to engage.
Sierra made a powerful pitch for volunteerism in her op-ed, and volunteers are the lifeblood of Crossroads. We invite anyone who wishes to share their experience and skills and passion – with an openness to discovery and learning – there are many ways to contribute aside from volunteering overseas. Look around in your own communities. No doubt there are countless organizations serving vulnerable populations or taking on any number of worthy issues that could benefit from your personal advocacy.
5. MAKE A DONATION
A resolution list for activism would not be complete without an ask for donations. If you are receiving this note you are likely already familiar with the work Crossroads does. The lives we touch. The difference we make. We must, and can, do so much more. Not everyone has the capacity to make a monetary donation, and as noted above there are many other ways to contribute. If you do have the ability, we will put your dollars to work. Generosity from our donors is enabling Crossroads to build on its legacy of 60 years of advancing equality – to support survivors of violence, to build resilience with farmers confronting climate change, and to increase real income and opportunities for people living in some of the world’s poorest countries. Even a small contribution is a demonstration of commitment to building a better world.
Whichever action you pursue, do it with passion and commitment. Whether you consider yourself one or not, we are all global citizens, and we must all work together to make the world just for all.
I will close by wishing everyone a peaceful and happy 2019.