Examples of Active Citizenship are being seen more frequently in the media and earning high praise from South Africans tired of complaining; join us as we look at how to do more.
South Africa (25 February 2020) – Active citizenship refers to a philosophy espoused by organizations and educational institutions which advocates that members of charitable organizations, companies or nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment, although those members may not have specific governing roles.
Active citizenry are members of society who take charge of their future and are the agents of what they want to happen in their communities.
Individuals might be active in their communities in many different ways. Some people choose to get involved in issues or causes that directly affect their lives at a local level, while others might want to do something to make a difference to a cause that has an impact globally.
Below is an outline of the different usages of the term Active Citizens:
- It is used most often at local level to refer to citizens who become actively involved n the life of their communities; tackling problems, bringing about change or resisting unwanted change. Active citizens are those who over time develop the skills, knowledge and understanding to be able to make informed decisions about their communities and workplaces with the aim of improving quality of life in them.
- At a regional and national level, it can move from voting in democratic processes to being involved in campaigning groups, to becoming a member of a political party.
- At an international level, the global active citizen may be involved in movements to promote environmental sustainability or fair trade, to reduce poverty or to eliminate people trafficking and slavery.
South Africans are tired of waiting for action from failing municipalities, and many citizens are taking their own action to ensure life remains livable.
While we always aim to focus on the good news, we can not turn a blind eye to the fact that it is difficult to drive anywhere without hitting a pothole or having visibility impaired due to overgrown sidewalks and trees near busy roads. There are many examples where municipality responsibility has by lapsed, and nothing is being done about it. What we can highlight is how to change it through active citizenship.
We were inspired by a recent clean-up drive where people within our community decided to weed the centre island on an 8km stretch of road. It started out as one citizen complaining about the lack of effort from the local municipality. It turned into an inspiring collection of people offering to spend their weekend tidying the place up. Before long, donations of gloves, refuse bags, drinks and snacks were being made, and an entire community came together to play their part.
Here are some examples of how you can be an active citizen:
Get to know your local ward councillor:
Meet the ward councillors working hard every day to ensure that your community gets better services. From neighbourhood watches to power outages, your local councillor can assist you with municipal issues where you live.
Pick Up Litter
When walking your dog, or spending a day out with friends and family. Pick up a few items of litter along the way. This will instantly leave the area looking a little tidier, and it will boost not only your morale but also that of anyone who spots you doing it too.
If you want to do a little more, speak to your neighbours or launch an event on your local community page and clean up a larger area. Many hands make light work.
Areas to keep in mind for this kind of project: Beaches, parks, open veld, forests, rivers, etc.
Weed As You Go
Nothing makes a green space look more unkempt than overgrown weeds. In some areas, if the weeds and bushes are left long enough, it can become a danger.
We have written stories about people who have cleared walkways and parks from overgrown greenery after tragic incidents had taken place in those spaces. For example, one man cleared an overgrown hedge in his area after he saved a woman from beings attacked and pulled behind it.
Keeping everything neat and tidy is not only visually appealing, but it is also preventative.
Areas to keep in mind for this kind of project: Traffic lights, parks, greenbelts, walkways, islands, etc.
Donate Your Time
Donating anything is valuable, especially to organisations that receive zero funding from the government. Any organisation will speak of the struggle to stay afloat, to stay relevant and to stay in the public eye. You don’t always have to donate things or money; sometimes, your time can be one of the most valuable things.
Whether that be playing a card game with the elderly, walking dogs at the local shelter or a bit of manual labour in a local community food garden, giving your time speaks louder than anything.
However, a charity will never turn away a donation, so here are a few examples of ways to give back:
- Donate pet food, blankets, cleaning supplies, old towels and your time to local animal shelters.
- Donate cakes, tea, coffee, magazines, books, movies, knitting supplies and your time to old aged homes.
- Donate clothing, toiletries, toys, books, food, cleaning supplies and more to children’s homes, shelters for women and children or shelters in general.
- Donate tools, seeds, soil, compost and your time to local food gardens.
- Donate cleaning supplies, tools and your time to local clean-up groups.
The options are endless, and you can find a cause that is close to your heart. If you want to check, you can always call the charity to see what they need.
When it comes to doing more in the public space, always ensure you are not doing anything that would risk the safety of others. If in doubt, get hold of your local ward councillor to discuss what your plans are and see if you are legally allowed to do so. If not, ask if there is a way to collaborate with the local municipality. An example of this is filling potholes. While the gesture is simple, it can cause problems and should always be done by a professional.
Many may argue that these measures are not our responsibility, that local government should be better and we wholeheartedly agree. Always reach out to your local municipality and request assistance. Report faulty infrastructure and send in complaints about unaddressed issues.
The definition of active citizenship is to do something instead of complaining. If your contribution is pushing the municipality to be better, that is the very best thing you can do!
Never stop making noise, always question your leaders and demand change but while you wait, do a little extra to set the balance right.
Tell us in the comments, what are some of your ways to give back and how you wish to be an active citizen?
Play Your Part is a nationwide movement created to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship in South Africa. Its objective is to lift the spirit of our nation by inspiring all South Africans to contribute to positive change, become involved and start doing – because a nation of people who care deeply for one another and the environment in which they live is good for everyone. The campaign is driven by Brand South Africa.
Play Your Part is aimed at all South Africans – from corporates to individuals, NGOs to government, churches to schools, young to not so young. It aims to encourage South Africans to use some of their time, money, skills or goods to contribute to a better future for all.
There are numerous opportunities, big and small, for each and every South African to make a positive difference in the communities in which they live and operate. Play Your Part encourages them to act on these opportunities.
For more information on how you can play your part click here #GetInvolved #PlayYourPart