Generation17 Young Leaders give their take on the role of digital technology in social activism.
The 2020 cohort of Generation17, the latest initiative launched as part of Samsung’s ongoing partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is comprised of four inspiring global young activists who have been mobilizing communities all over the world to come together to make change happen.
Máximo Mazzocco from Argentina, Sadya Touré from Mali, Shomy Chowdhury from Bangladesh and Tafara Makaza from Zimbabwe have already made considerable headway into galvanizing people around the world to raise awareness about some of the world’s most urgent problems. Samsung Mobile Press asked them to share more about their stories and the role digital activism plays in building communities for change.
Q: What does ‘digital activism’ mean to you?
Shomy Chowdhury: In a globalizing world, digital activism is a critical tool to raise awareness about important issues and create a movement. This helps us learn about our shared problems and connects us in addressing them collectively. It also acts as a means to show our solidarity for each other despite the distance. Because of digital activism, anyone and everyone now has the power to change the world in the palm of their hands!
Tafara Mazaka: Digital technologies are a form of connection as well as an important means of raising awareness and sharing resources. In a time where online meetings are the ‘new normal,' it’s important for young people to be active in online communities that address societal problems as a whole.
Sadya Touré: To me, digital activism means using these incredible tools we have today to create change by speaking up, sharing experiences and raising awareness. The accountability provided by these tools, the responsibility that your actions are inspiring others to also take action, this encourages you to do more and more. The power to change the world is literally at our fingertips, and we cannot take that for granted.
Q: What role has digital activism played in your own work?
Máximo Mazzocco: Without digital activism, the fight against climate change would not have grown as fast as it did. It is now hard for me to imagine engaging in activism without our mobile phones.
Tafara: In Africa, the internet is run primarily on mobile phones. People communicate, pay and more using their phones, therefore it is very important for me to incorporate technology into my solutions as much as possible.
Sadya: A lot of the opportunities that myself and my organization have obtained have been because of what we post on social media. For example, mobile technologies helped me promote the release of my book, thanks to the ability to run an online campaign. Through digital technology, I am able to promote not just my work, but my thoughts and my own personal activism too.
Shomy: Digital activism has played a pivotal role in my work as a WASH activist. Digital technologies have helped my organization reach out to thousands of people and experience real growth. If such technology were not available, it probably would have taken us decades to expand to the 23 countries we are now present in. The Awareness 360 movement has escalated as far and as wide as it has because of digital activism.
Q: What strategies have been effective for you in raising awareness using mobile technology?
Tafara: Sharing my message with friends and organizations within my network and encouraging them to interact with that content has been a great strategy for me. I also ensure that my social media posts are informative, precise and consistent, so that even if someone isn’t aware of the issue, they can learn something new from my content in a jiffy.
Máximo: Mobile phones are a key part of my organization’s daily operations. We use mobile technologies to organize the logistics of strikes and other activities, to educate, to create media content and also to reach local politicians in order to further our cause.
Shomy: My team and I study digital trends in order to make our content more accessible. We started taking advantage of the different features offered by various social media platforms to interact with our followers, including posts, live broadcasts, polls and more.
Sadya: Storytelling has been one of the best ways for me to make my message consumable in the digital sphere. Even when I have to touch on sensitive or political issues, I tell the story by highlighting the individual story of a real person this issue has had an impact on.
Q: What is the most memorable interaction you have had with people online while campaigning for social issues?
Shomy: I receive beautiful messages from strangers almost everyday, and it feels truly fulfilling when I hear that they appreciate my work and have become inspired to join the cause. Someone once told me that they want to name their future daughter after me so that she grows up to be a person like me. Such interactions leave me in tears!
Q: What do you recommend to those young people who want to do something to bring about meaningful change and help realize the 17 Global Goals, but don’t know where to begin?
Shomy: Firstly, they should educate themselves on the Global Goals using the resources available online. The Samsung Global Goals app is a good place to start as it has a lot of information on the issues that the Global Goals are seeking to address. Then, they should look in their own communities to find out if any individual or organization is already addressing the issues they feel most passionately about. They can either volunteer with those existing initiatives or come up with their own innovative projects. I personally believe that collaboration is key!
Sadya: I would first ask of them these questions: what issues do you really care about? Why do you care about this specific issue, or issues? After they’ve answered these questions, they can start by talking about their chosen issues and engaging others to think about the process of solving these issues. By engaging in discussion, trusting in the process and involving others, they’ll know how to move forward.
Tafara: Working towards the Global Goals doesn’t mean you necessarily have to start big; just start small, with your community, and with that you’ll learn and grow to find sustainable and human-centric solutions for the issues you care about.
Máximo: What myself and my organization recommend is to think globally and act locally. We can’t solve all the world’s problems by ourselves, but if we get started, no matter on how small a scale, we are already on the path to bringing about change. For example, on the Samsung Global Goals app, users can take part in small actions that generate donations for the UNDP that go towards achieving the Global Goals. Simply being active is the first step towards building a better world.
Q: What does 2021 look like for you? Do you have any specific goals you'd like to achieve? How do you intend to achieve them, and what role will digital technologies play?
Tafara: As a transport start-up initiative, we are looking forward to cities opening up again following the COVID-19 pandemic and we are hoping to become the leading public transport app in Africa. The ‘new normal’ lifestyle during the pandemic has accelerated the use of mobile technologies and apps in Africa, and we expect that this will result in a higher adoption of our app in 2021.
Shomy: We recently recruited our 2021 cohort, a new group of young people who are full of passion to change the world, and we are currently working on our 12 week-long Youth Development Program to help these young people gain the new skills and insights necessary to continue our advocacy campaigns and projects. We want to harness technology to better assess our organization’s impact, as well as to continue to use it to empower more young people to raise awareness.
Máximo: We believe that 2021 is going to be one of the most important years yet for youth and the environmental movement. We saw immense growth in 2020 as the youth environmental movement is so strong right now, and technology was instrumental in enabling the Eco House message to gain attention and followers around the world. Looking ahead, we want to continue to harness the power of digital technologies to grow our movement, and I hope that we can stop just talking about change and continue to take real action, nationally and internationally.
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