My Social Action Story - #ShareYourPledgeDay 2018
For me, social action is multi-dimensional. It is about engaging with global issues starting with my immediate surroundings at the grassroots and following the ripples of change all the way to the international level. This is my story of how I am striving to serve others and improve my community through dynamic social action locally in Luton, nationally across the UK and globally on an international level.
I founded Luton Lights last year as a Girls(20) post-summit initiative to motivate and inspire girls in the town I grew up in, Luton. I wanted to transform any negative rhetoric associated with this area by creating an opportunity in Luton for girls aged 11+ to acknowledge and develop their true potential. Luton Lights provides free workshops, resources and courses with have included school assemblies, coding lessons and inspirational workshops. We have now just wrapped up our 5-week Luton Lights spring course! Every Saturday, we ran interactive workshops on motivation, social action, mentoring, confidence and coding on HTML and CSS – we had awesome relatable guest speakers along the way including Zena Alston [Senior Manager at PWC]and Grace Adeyemi [HR assistant at KPMG].
In our final session, the girls each did individual presentations on what they had learnt over the 5 weeks and a social action project they would like to create. It was so cool to hear how the girls want to improve our community through inspiring blogs, YouTube channels, and campaigns. The winning idea was by Sylvia, 17, who wants to do a free ‘beauty-makeover’ day for women affected by domestic violence in Luton. Luton Lights is proudly investing £200 into this amazing idea!
I have always said that even if just one girl is inspired to perhaps grow in confidence or to consider a career STEM as a result of Luton Lights, then my job will be done. While all the participants so far have provided positive feedback and testimonials, I can honestly testify that working with these amazing girls has thoroughly inspired me and my self-esteem has grown. This is the beauty of social action - you actually grow and improve as you volunteer your time and energy for the betterment of others.
In 2016 I applied and interviewed to be one of the young members of the #iWill Fund Leadership board. I was overjoyed to have been selected – in retrospect, I really had no idea how great of an opportunity to grow and influence it would be! The board gets to influence how millions of pounds are allocated in order to increase meaningful youth social action participation in the UK. I love that we seek to reach underrepresented groups and those who are least likely to already be involved in social action! I have had many highlights on the board – the most recent of which was getting invited to Buckingham Palace [for the second time!] to celebrate the 70th birthday of our campaign patron HRH Prince of Wales.
A few months ago, I got to visit some young female NHS volunteers in Chesterfield. It was overwhelming to discover that our work on the #iWill Fund board was already creating real opportunities for young people across the UK to develop skills and serve others within their communities! I later got to speak about social action to over 12000 young people at Wembley for WE Day.
Last year, I was selected as part of the UK delegation to the youth G7 summit Rome, the Young European Leadership Delegation to MISK Global Forum in Riyadh and as the UK ambassador G(irls)20 in Germany. A couple of weeks ago, I was a youth delegate at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. I have volunteered within the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network [CYPAN] for almost 2 years and it was surreal to see the Commonwealth Heads of State endorse UNSCR 2250 as a direct result of CYPAN youth advocacy.
I am heading to Lithuania tomorrow as part of the G[irls]20 delegation to the Women Political Leadership Forum, I am excited to discuss my youth social action passion with political and business leaders from all over the world. I want to share my experiences and lessons and also learn from the speakers and delegates. I am particularly hoping to gain new ideas and perspectives for Luton Lights so that next time we run the course it will be even bigger and better. My Luton Lights work now gives me greater fuel, passion and authenticity to contribute and influence on national and international levels.
My pledge today is to continue to pursue and advocate for the growth, development and empowerment of young people - particularly girls. I think a key component of this is to encourage them into meaningful social action from a young age so that lifelong habits can be formed. Certainly, all this is dependent on the availability of quality youth social action opportunities which is a reason why social action should be embedded in any healthy education system. As a young person who volunteers, I love that I have a voice and I am part of the decision-making processes that affect young people in the UK. Standing before 12000+ young people in Wembley recently, I really meant it when I said: “I find my voice and develop confidence as I advocate for others to do the same.”