The Power of Advocacy
Amika George, Greta Thunberg, Shiden Tekle, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky, Yara Shahidi, Marley Diaz, Robby Novak, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, and many others have one thing in common: they are all advocates.
Advocacy is one of the easiest privileges to attain. It can take form during a conversation, a campaign, a poster, and much more. But very few recognize this privilege and the true extent to which advocacy can create change. I am someone who has explored this through different pathways. I have established a service group, E Co which advocates for the reduction of waste within the NIST community and emphasizes specifically on paper waste. We have used social media platforms to connect with the community to inform them of the effects of paper consumption through our campaigns such as #echoforeco and interactive sessions with primary school children. I have also worked to create a website which acts as another platform and provides instructable videos of products that can be made of paper. All of these actions fall under advocacy because as a group we have tried to inform our audience about the issue. However, the real success of advocacy came through the cheery voices of the 7 years old’s we presented to who repeatedly said “I’m going to make more of these [recycled] bookmarks so I can help the planet too” because that demonstrated the effects of our actions.
During my time here at NIST, I have been also been able to empower women in society through the service group FemiNIST. FemiNIST too uses events as a medium to educate the community on gender-related issues. Furthermore, FemiNIST uses its advocacy platform to help young women and their children situated in northern Thailand's Baan Unrak become financially independent through sales of granola and butterfly pea. Yet my most powerful experience here has been discussing real-world issues through the lens of Model United Nations. Every Wednesday afternoon we have the opportunity to discuss the need for legislation and policies to role model how the UN would react to a global crisis. This reinforced the need and drive for change through policies, practices, and attitudes.
Yet, no one needs all these experiences to advocate! I am fortunate to be living in a society where the democratic system exists; that means that I am granted the most powerful right, the right to advocate. The right that allows thousands of individuals to speak. Had I not been granted that right I would have not been able to take a step towards change or tackle any adversity. A lot of times when people hear the word “advocate” they imagine someone dressed in a formal suit, a white shirt underneath with a tie in a courtroom; a lawyer. But the beauty of advocacy is in the fact that one does not need to have a professional certification or be dressed formally. All it requires is the resolute desire to strive for a more inclusive and progressive environment. The ability to hone this desire and channel the frustration gained from the outdated practices is what inspires one to advocate. This same want has led millions of teenagers around the world to use advocacy as a medium for change. The list of the effects of advocacy is endless and no statistic can prove how many advocates there are or exactly how much an advocate can affect someone else. The absence of these statistics should be a reminder that advocacy is not a defined term that can be memorized and implemented. It is a revolutionary longing that exists within each of the 7,874,965,825 (and counting!) individuals of our planet. This is the true power of advocacy.