#WeeklyWisdom: Is there Power in the Petition?

From hash tagging to challenge nominations, social media is a platform that create awareness on global or regional issues.

In the African context, our thriving independence and democratic governance is set upon the ashes of strikes, protests and mass gatherings where those in power see the people making a physical effort for change. Now that we are well into our freedom and independence, have garnered newer generations that have adapted to the westernised movement of the globe and adjusted well to technological trends, is it necessary to merge petitions to our voice of change?

Peering across the waters, petitioning is a democratic tool that has been utilized long the birth of a computer. In the western world, the petition dates back to the 1800’s,where people successfully petitioned against the annexation of Hawaii, to women petitioning to drink coffee in the 1670’s (coffee was only exclusive to men at the time). Petitions were a less violent tool to create change, although it’s a longer process in achieving such.

Today, with over 1 in 4 people on earth using social media, petitioning is easier, as social media platforms are a greater voice for awareness and support. Certain petitions have made an impact to lives of Africans today. For example; Mirriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag’s story, if she didn’t catch media attention, she wouldn’t have catapulted a petition that over 1 million people signed to – the awareness reach and pressure on Sudanese government (along with a legal team), she would not have seen light of this day.

Although we see petitions working, we cannot ignore the fact that awareness through social media attracts ‘attention-sloring’ (for lack of a better word) which leads people to jump on a bandwagon as if the issue is a trend, saturating the true nature of the cause. The most recent awareness campaign of the Ice bucket challenge for example, started as a nomination to pour ice water over each other to create awareness on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and donate for research, it attracted many people’s attention, but the paid a price of catching attention of those who are only willing to engage in the activity for entertainment.

In a nutshell, it is clearly time for us young Africans to use social media as a tool to create more awareness on issues that are affecting us, from desertification, to socio-economic issues. What is important is that we find the right platforms which clearly discuss our issue, the impact we aim to meet and most importantly, how to help. It is no secret that protests leads to a loss of innocent lives, i is time for a more peaceful approach which makes more noise. In the words of Angelique Kidjo ““We have to stop the vulnerability of losing lives so stupidly. We have the capacity. We have the brains, yet we behave like new-born kids.”