Words by Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen | Photo Gayatri Malhotra

Activism is the mission of bringing a revolutionary social or political change.  Social activism uncovers the source of the issue that impacts people.  Social activism is generally fighting for injustices like the Rohingya genocide and food insecurity rising in Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.  Anyone who agrees with the idealism or motto of an organization can join them and participate as an activist.

Activists use many techniques to highlight an issue by creating campaigns to create public awareness or demanding help to aid the affected population.  Social activists target organizations, corporations, and political officials, aiming to bring about change in their current practices and policies for the betterment of people.  The factors that lead to social activism include discrimination, financial instability and political or social issues.  It includes (but not limited to) peace activism, environmental activism, political activism, technology activism, animal activism and economic activism. US social change activist, Bill Moyer states, “Activists need to become aware of the roles they and their organizations are playing in the larger social movements.” 

Most of the time, social activists are lobbying their governments and campaigning for other social issues, therefore they should be responsible citizens so that the people can trust them and their organization. Any social movement gets recognition only when it can communicate to the masses and activists play a crucial role in it by winning the trust of general citizens and gain acceptance.

Throughout history, many activists have made their name by accomplishing their agendas.  Individuals like Malala Yosafzai known as a Women’s Rights activist, Nelson Mandela who fought all his life to end the inequality and racism in South Africa and Martin Luther King Jr advocated for the civil rights in America.  Then, we have George Orwell, Margaret Sanger, Mikhail Gorbachev – they are among a few of many other famous social activists of all time.

The most effective social activism movements involve long-term functional strategies.  These strategies have five different forms, which can also be called types of social activism. They are namely protests, boycotts, strikes, petitions and social media campaigns.  Protests and strikes are organized when people unite for a common belief while boycotts are targeted towards companies or businesses to make them economically suffer.  Petitions are signed to pressurize the public officials and powerholders.  The more signatures are found on a petition, the more impact it will have on the higher authorities.  

Social media campaigns seem to have gained a lot of importance since 2019.  It is a new form of activism used to create awareness among general people and establish organizations.  Some of the world’s successful social organizations are LGBTQ, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, The Civil Rights movement, Feminist movement, and Human Rights Watch.  These organizations are working to provide rights to people and fight against injustice and inequality. During the Covid-19 burst, social activism has evolved with the rise in social media usage and has become an active key factor for social activism.  People are now more active on social media, hence it is considered to be the right platform to increase the awareness of social movements in society.

One of the many successful social media movements, Black Lives Matter had taken the internet by storm.  It remained the highest trending with hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.  BLMGNF or Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation raised $90 million in the year 2020, according to The Non-Profit Times.  Amidst the pandemic, social media movements evolve globally, such as #MeToo and #Pride.  These movements generated hundreds and thousands of hashtags in various languages and have gone viral.  They have proved to be very successful in bringing social injustice to light by providing information across the globe.  Social media networks like Instagram and Twitter promote social activism, also known as Hashtag activism.  

According to a Pew research paper, 69% of Americans think online platforms are necessary for social campaigns.  Many young activists are actively participating in bringing change either socially or politically through social media.  Famous sporting brand, Nike has voiced its support to Black Lives Matter by putting a spin on its logo with the tagline, “For once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism.”  

Famous ice-cream company, Ben and Jerry’s have always raised the voices against racism, criminal injustice, LGBTQ rights and global warming.  

Social activism or social movements can be very impactful, depending on the activists that run the organizations.  An activist has enormous power to bring sustainability and equity to the world. Fighting for a fair social system is beneficial for everyone.  Working together with organizations to achieve a common goal and raising their voice against injustice will help the oppressed feel that their voices are heard.  Social Movements can dramatically shape the direction of a society.  Its crucial role is to provide people with the opportunity to get together and speak their voices.  Social media activism has sparked ground-level reform.  People from all around the globe participate in it and has helped amplify voices, educate people to fight injustice in their region and bring positive change.

Human rights education is now more active on social media platforms. Social movements have always provoked and brought about a change in societies and are still striving for the betterment of humankind.