There are 836 million people living in extreme poverty, most of them in developing countries. The figures are staggering. But the power to change that lies in the hands of young people, and the young people who work with ActionAid provide a really inspiring example. International Youth Day falls every year on 12th August, and this year’s theme is “eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable consumption and production”. That’s why we’re taking this opportunity to celebrate just some of the amazing young people who work with ActionAid.
I’m one of about 20 volunteer local organisers with ActionAid. We’re spread out across the country, and our role is to engage our local communities in ActionAid’s campaigns. This could be anything from gathering petition signatures at local events and festivals, to lobbying our MPs on issues like tax justice and gender equality, to organising publicity stunts in prominent places. It also means that I’ve met some really engaged and enthusiastic young people.
This network is wider than just the UK, and I want to share with you some examples of young people across the globe who are really making a difference.
Chisomo, 22, tackling tax dodging in Malawi
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to meet Chisomo Bullah, a 22-year old Malawian “Activista”. Activistas are young volunteer campaigners who live all over the world. Chisomo had a serious car accident last year that broke her arm in two places and left her unconscious.
She blames the poor state of the road for her accident, saying: “The road was unsafe. If there had been more tax revenue, the government could maintain the roads so accidents could be reduced.”
To add insult to (literal) injury, once in hospital she had to wait two days before receiving treatment – which she had to pay for herself. Her experiences really bring home just how desperately the country needs tax revenues to fund its public services. Unwilling to accept this, Chisomo has decided to take a stand by lobbying her government for a fairer tax deal.
If there had been more tax revenue, the government could maintain the roads so accidents could be reduced.
Mohamed, 20, fighting FGM in Somaliland
Mohamed Abdi is just 20, but he’s already working hard to end the harmful practices of female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision. In Somaliland 97% of girls are cut. He completed an ActionAid training course, and now he talks to members of his community about the dangers of FGM.
It’s not easy changing minds and combatting an age-old tradition, but Mohamed says it’s something he feels passionate about. “FGM doesn’t only affect girls; it affects their children and grandchildren as it’s passed down generation to generation," he says.
Lina, 24, helping refugees in Lesvos
Lina Abuaisheh, 24, is from Hebron, in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. When she heard a call for Arabic-speaking volunteers in Lesvos, she didn’t hesitate in going. “I am Palestinian,” she said, “and we know what it means to have to abandon your home.” She helped in mother and baby centres at the refugee camp, where she met hundreds of people whose lives had been torn apart by the war in Syria.
Lina has supported refugees in many ways – from simply giving them space to talk openly in their own language, to helping women with practicalities like getting sanitary towels.
I am Palestinian, and we know what it means to have to abandon your home.
Despite all the trauma and hurt she’s seen, she manages to maintain a positive outlook: “I don’t buy it when people say ‘it’s impossible.’ There is a solution to this crisis and a way to save all those lives. There has to be.”
Adrian and Harrison, 18, raising money in the UK
Adrian Howell and Harrison Romney, two 18-year-old friends, took on the RideLondon challenge this July, cycling 100 miles for ActionAid. Thanks to their hard work, they are on track to raise £1,000 between them and have already signed up to join the team again next year.
All these young people are making a really powerful changes in their communities, and provide hope that the next generation really might be the ones to end poverty once and for all.
If you're inspired by what Chisomo, Mohamed, Lina, Adrian and Harrison are doing, please share this blog and tell your friends!
Photo credits: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures/ActionAid, ActionAid