Rethinking Social Change in Unprecedented Times

by
Ankita Saigal
,
April 30, 2021

Unprecedented changes disrupt the way of our lives; even more so, disproportionately, in the most vulnerable and marginalised communities of our society. The interconnectedness of complex systems that make the modern world run has never been more apparent. The pandemic has presented opportunities to rethink our values and goals. How should the social sector respond to varying forms of evolving crises?


Civic Participation Perseveres Pandemic

In these unprecedented times, many of us seek new ways to connect with our community, and we want to do so responsibly. The pandemic has led to an acute awareness of the long-standing inequalities, demonstrating the close connections in our community and country,  as evidently seen through the  participants of the YSEALI Boot Camp 2020. The virtual Boot Camp led to six teams in implementing their respective civic engagement campaign in different states across Malaysia. This required teams to think of alternative yet effective ways to engage with the community and come up with innovative solutions. The Boot Camp equipped participants with the necessary skills, tools, and knowledge needed to run their civic engagement campaign and to mobilize them, as agents of positive change in their communities.


“It has been a very exceptional learning experience for me. As a Sabahan who lives in a semi-rural region, this Bootcamp has provided me with the first-ever chance to be involved in such a big initiative,” said Hiew Wen Tian, the team leader of Belia di Bawah Bayu. “This would otherwise not have been possible if not for the online learning and digital tools provided to us. As a student activist, I am very inspired by this Bootcamp as it has shown me how one single person can make an exponential impact in society so long as they have the will to strive for what they truly believe in.” added Tian. 

Community outreach initiatives in times of disruption should also consider how to augment their outreach to better engage people with different levels of language ability and access. Groups who are often excluded from digital forms of engagement should not be left out of engagement efforts.


Meet 6 Empowering Social Campaigns by Youths

Check out some of these youth-led initiatives to see how you can be inspired by the impactful work these youth have done in times of disruption. 

  1. Bulan Sisters — Bulan Sisters’ single objective is to eradicate period poverty in Malaysia. Their campaign, #BreakTheFlow, focuses on destigmatising menstruation and its taboos while providing reusable sanitary products to girls in need to ensure they can stay in school and work. 
  1. Belia di Bawah Bayu — This initiative raises  awareness on  the issues faced by the stateless community in Sabah.  They conducted a simulation of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly dubbed ‘DUN Belia Sabah' in championing the issues of statelessness and education in Sabah. By bringing this issue to light, they hope to spark governmental action  to enforce policies to help these communities by showcasing their potential as contributing members of society.
  1. Kau Ok Tak — Kau Ok Tak aims  to inculcate a deeper trust in counselling practices amongst secondary school students and deconstruct the stigma towards counselling among Malaysian teenagers. This initiative utilises secondary learning institutions as a medium for organising interactive activities, involving their target group as well as other stakeholders. Their long-term goal is to also look towards policy recommendations to further drive better education on mental health issues and services in the future. 
  1. The BlueBird Project by PLUHO — The BlueBird mental health project aims to develop a mental health referral service platform in Malaysia, which is LGBTQ-affirming, inclusive, and accessible by LGBTQ community members who seek sustainable mental health treatment.
  1. Safe Campus — Safe Campus  consists of a group of young women advocating for safe campuses in higher education institutions in Sabah. They aim to educate students on the many forms of sexual harassment and how to deal with them, with the goal of creating a safe campus that has ZERO tolerance towards sexual harassment.
  1. RforRiver — RforRiver is an initiative to celebrate our love for Malaysian rivers, despite frequent news of river pollution in the country in this pandemic-hit year. They aim to sensitize fellow Malaysians to ways of enjoying and appreciating rivers despite the saddening news surrounding the topic.


It has been a very exceptional learning experience for me. As a Sabahan who lives in a semi-rural region, this Bootcamp has provided me with the first-ever chance to be involved in such a big initiative. This would otherwise not have been possible if not for the online learning and digital tools provided to us. As a student activist, I am very inspired by this Bootcamp as it has shown me how one single person can make an exponential impact in society so long as they have the will to strive for what they truly believe in.
- Hiew Wen Tian, team leader of Belia di Bawah Bayu.

Do you want to make a difference and start your own civic engagement but unsure where to start? We will be launching our very own online course on Future Learn which aims to help you bring positive change to your city, community, country & world! The days of waiting for change to occur are over. Innovative, inspiring and exhilarating youth leaders like yourself will become our beacon for a better tomorrow. We are looking to you for what you could be and should be!

Ankita Saigal

Ankita is a project lead & education content developer at Me.reka and an advocacy consultant at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. She is an ardent supporter of sustainability, human rights, and international development.