February 20th is a day to recognize the importance of social justice. It happens every year and presents a great opportunity to learn more about the world’s most pressing social justice issues and how to address them. Many organizations and schools have resources and special curriculum, but what are some activities that anyone can do? Here are five ideas:
Research specific issues and organizations that interest you
Major social justice issues include poverty, discrimination, gender equality, and more. Every World Day of Social Justice has its own theme, but they’re broad, so you can investigate how certain populations are specifically affected. You are also free to research any social justice issue that resonates with you. There are countless resources available online and if you want a more in-depth look, there are also books.
As you learn, you can also research organizations that are working on the issues. CharityNavigator.org is a great place to start as it lists organizations by category (i.e. human rights, environment, etc) and provides info like a breakdown of expenses and accountability metrics. Learning what makes an org trustworthy helps you become an informed donor.
Write a letter, make a phone call, and/or sign a petition
Writing letters (including emails) is a great way to get your voice on things that matter to you. There are always political bills or issues that deserve attention. Not sure how to get started? Countless activists put in work to provide information like email addresses, letter templates, and more online for free. You can also find contact info on public officials’ websites. These days, it’s easier than ever to get involved. You can also see if any of the organizations you’ve researched are doing letter-writing campaigns.
If you’re concerned that your email may be lost in a sea of messages, you can also try making a phone call. Many political activists say that phone calls to public officials are the most effective way to get heard. Staff members have to answer the phone, listen, and keep track of how many calls an issue is receiving. This forces the official to take the issue seriously. If you’re short on time or not confident in your writing or speaking skills, you can also sign petitions.
Help a young person get involved in social justice
One of the most powerful things you can do in the fight for social justice is to encourage a young person. When supported and empowered, kids and teens can do incredible things. If you know any young people interested in social justice, but they aren’t sure how to get started, tell them about the nonprofit DoSomething. Their website has a long list of campaigns, activism projects, and educational resources that kids can participate in. Submitting proof of a completed campaign or project makes them eligible for prizes, like scholarships. US or Canadian citizens who are 25 years or younger are eligible.
Try an educational project like the Two-Dollar Challenge
What would life be like if you lived on $2 a day? This challenge is based on the UN’s definition of “extreme poverty,” which is living on less than $1.90 a day. There are a detailed set of rules and code of conduct, so this project shouldn’t be undertaken without a good deal of thought. The challenge organizers also ask that you participate in at least two group discussions. The “Beginner” level is 3 days and 2 nights.
If the Two-Dollar Challenge feels too intimidating, you can also try a grocery budgeting exercise. Give each person in your family just $9-$10 to buy food for one day to see how challenging it is. Consider questions like “Should I prioritize pricier healthy food or less healthy food that’s cheaper?” This is a good exercise to do with a group, so you can discuss the results. Educational projects like this should always be done with a recognition of your privilege. Even after it’s over, remember that you are not suddenly an expert on the issue.
Create an action plan for long-term engagement with social justice
The World Day of Social Justice is just one day, but fighting for social justice is a lifelong pursuit. If you want to make more of an impact, use the day to create a longer-term action plan. This could include compiling a list of books and educational resources you want to study; setting up a monthly donation to an organization; and researching local community groups centered on social justice. There are many things you can add to your routines to raise awareness of issues and help with solutions. You don’t have to rearrange your life and change your career to become a social justice advocate.