Make Some Noise: 6 Activist Campaigns that Shook Things Up

Flickr/CC/HelenSTB | Defaced statue of Louis Botha outside the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town during the #RhodesMustFall campaign

By Zarreen Kamalie

It can be easy to become complacent with the way things work, whether that’s the acceptance that change is out of our control, or the belief that things are fine the way they are. That is until your neighbourhood or campus-based activist group really caught your attention with its latest dynamic, thought-provoking campaign.

Whichever one spoke to you, there’s little denying that these are the campaigns that make you stop and think about what you and those around you have begun to take for granted.

For campaigns based in Africa, you have to take into account the country in which they’re operating. Most African countries, with perhaps the exception of South Africa, have very strict laws regarding activism.

Here are some activist campaigns, based in Africa, which made an impact in their area, and possibly beyond.

  1.  Rhodes Must Fall – South Africa

Rhodes Must Fall is a student-led activist movement at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Initially formed with the primary aim to remove a long-standing statue of infamous British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes from the campus grounds. After weeks of protest, dialogue amongst students and with the university management, the University of Cape Town saw the removal of the statue, indicating a giant step in social transformation for the university.

Since then, Rhodes Must Fall has continued the discussion and fight toward decolonisation of education and institution at the university. Their work is often in collaboration with other student societies and parties on campus such as the UCT Palestine Solidarity Front (PSF) and the UCT Left Students Forum.

Aside from instigating dialogue around change and transformation on campus, Rhodes Must Fall sparked nationwide debates around other institutions in South Africa including Stellenbosch University and the University of Witwatersrand, both top universities on the continent.

  1.  Citizens for a Better Environment – The Green Party of Zambia

Peter Sinkamba, founder of Zambia’s ‘Green Party’, also started Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE). Citizens for a Better Environment is an organization dedicated to developing, promoting, and implementing sustainable environmental and economic policies.

CBE also researches and exposes the most flagrant abuses of the environment by mining companies, applying pressure to hold those responsible to account. When the health and survival of these basins were under threat from destructive industrial practices, particularly mining, Peter Sinkamba and CBE’s efforts began with a campaign to ensure mining companies who violate domestic and international law were held accountable.

Compensation for those affected was also handled by Sinkamba, whereby 65 houses where 517 persons lived had been constructed in Mufurila town following subsidence of their houses as a consequence of mining activities.

  1.  #EndFGM – Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana

End Female Genital Mutilation, known better as its hashtag #EndFGM, is a European based campaign to combat and end the practice of female genital mutilation. If you don’t know the extent to which female genital mutilation is practiced, or what it entails exactly, you can find more information on the End FGM website.

As for the campaign in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, those who are working to change local and cultural perceptions of the practice fight a long and hard battle. Nigeria has recently banned the practice, though that is not to say it has been completely eradicated. End FGM continues to champion its cause, facing great difficulty but making great strides with a lot of support. To support this cause, click here.

  1.  Right 2 Know – South Africa

The Right 2 Know campaign seeks to challenge lack of transparency and accountability. Their focuses range from government to corporations. In August 2010, the Right 2 Know campaign protested against the Protection of State Information Bill, calling for the right to hold the government accountable for its actions and for the provision of vital information regarding its citizens’ well being.

Since then, there have been changes to the Bill but R2K claims there is still much to do The organisation has since challenged the state and corporations on their behaviour, but 2010 will always be the year in which it became apparent that R2K was here to stay.

  1.  Action2015 Campaign – Ghana

This global movement comprises almost 2000 organizations across 145 countries. In Ghana alone, various Civil Society Organisations have come together for this monumental year. These include, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Purim African Youth Development Platform, Abibimman Foundation, and Community & Family Aid Foundation and was led by the Integrated Social Development Centre.

While it may be too soon to list this campaign’s successes, it is incredibly impressive that this platform has risen to combat an array of global challenges including poverty, community development, and education. Keep track of this campaign by clicking here.

  1. June 23 Movement – Senegal

The June 23 Movement in 2011, also referred to as M23, involved all walks of life in Senegal and called for President Abdoulaye Wade to refrain from running for a third term. Phrases “y’en marre” could be heard, as people voiced their frustrations. The movement involved unionists, political party members and leaders, youth organizations, and citizens’ movements.

It was a turbulent political moment, and the movement itself played a critical role in preventing former President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to amend the constitutional provision on term limits and hang on to power.