Long distance activism: how to do good from abroad

From being a citizen reporter like 15-year-old Syrian Muhammad Najem to refusing to serve in the army like 21-year-old Israeli Noa Golan, youth activism takes various forms. And young people living abroad add yet another layer to definitions of activism.

With the number of international migrants hitting 258 million in 2017, the brain drain rhetoric is more powerful than ever, especially in developing countries. Several initiatives arise as an effort to encourage youth to stay in or come back to their home countries. But for people who live abroad, the choice to come “home” is never as simple; so they resort to alternatives.

Being far from their home countries and unable to take to their streets, they understand activism differently and approach it creatively, thanks to the duality of their experiences. They greatly contribute to the rise of entrepreneur activists, meeting needs that their governments often can't meet.

Here are two initiatives of young diasporans who understand that it does not take an expert to be a social justice activist:

SAYNA (Madagascar)

Matina Razafimahefa and her family left Madagascar and moved to France in 2009. Amazed by the fact that education in France was free and that anyone could access high-quality trainings, Razafimahefa wanted to offer the same to her Malagasy peers. Inspired, she founded SAYNA, a social enterprise that provides free training in web development for marginalised youth. In collaboration with a number of local — and soon international — organisations, SAYNA works hard to make sure their students find employment upon graduation. Although always in between countries, Matina is constantly looking for ways to make her enterprise grow.

Truth in image making (Venezuela)

Winner of the Davis Projects for Peace 2018 prize. 
Alexis Parra, a Venezuelan student in the United States, decided to take action after she saw how biased media outlets abroad portrayed Venezuela. To counteract these negative representations, she launched her project Truth in Image Making in collaboration with Tiuna El Fuerte. Truth in Image Making teaches photography to young Venezuelans so they can discover how to represent themselves in their own terms. With this project, Parra aims to cultivate sustainable workshops that promote photography as a medium to uplift the perspectives of everyday citizens.

These are only two examples of many youth-led initiatives taking grassroots action to make their communities better. They remind us to broaden our understanding of activism. Activism is not just volunteering at your local animal shelter or organizing marches; as long as you want to do good you can find endless ways of doing so.

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