The concept of active citizenship

Jci_LogoJunior Chamber International (JCI) is a non-profit international non-governmental organization of young people between 18 and 40 years old. Activities in the organization are based, more or less, on active citizenship.  I wrote this article  sometime back and I thought to share.

…So they went on. The two young people who liked to think themselves active citizens. The two Jaycees*. As they walked on they talked about the world and all they wanted to change about it. They talked about their Local Organization’s just concluded Waste Bin Project. One of them decided to stop and get a sachet water. It had after all been a very hot day and the walk back to the hostel seemed to be getting longer. He got a sachet for his friend too. Between gulps of the water and walking back home, they continued their conversation about the change they would bring. They both finished drinking at the same time and discarded the wraps by the roadside. What lofty dreams these young active citizen had! What beautiful goals they spoke about! Only they forgot that Active Citizenship is not limited to huge projects and that it starts from the smallest of things as disposing waste properly.

One phrase is synonymous to Junior Chamber International- Active Citizenship. Right from the second you pick up the form to join the organization to the days (or years that follow) the concept of active citizenship keeps coming up. From the vision to the creed down to our actions, we are faced everyday as a Jaycee with the endless possibilities of the things we can do by taking a stand and not just sitting around waiting for the change to happen.

The concept of active citizenship is not far-fetched. There is no standard definition or model for an active citizen. The term is used to refer to people or rather citizens who become actively involved in tackling problems facing the community or bringing about change.  Active citizens take action in order to improve their community to make a difference. It is a philosophy that advocates that citizens have certain roles and responsibilities to society and environment although they do not have specific governing roles.

Many a time we complain about things going wrong in our society. From the smallest thing as the untidy state of our environment to bigger things like leadership of the community. Over time, we have developed the ‘Siddon-look’ attitude (waiting for things to change all by itself). It is believed that the government should do any and everything and that they have little responsibilities to the community. This, however, is a wrong notion. The growth or downfall of your community rests on your shoulders as a member of that community. While it is true the government has a huge part to play, your responsibilities to that community is limitless.

From disposing waste properly (no matter how silly it sounds, yes you owe your environment that much and yes, it is a part of being active), to organising small empowerment training sessions for those ‘Area Aburos’ to deciding to vote during elections because you feel your vote counts for something (not because some persons decide to distribute odourless fufu or branded rice/bread or “poundless iyan”), these things go a long way in building the community.

I like to use this analogy I picked up somewhere a lot. So here goes…Picture a dark neighbourhood with ditches at almost every turn. For every one that passes through that route without light, there is a possibility of falling into one of the ditches. Now picture one “good Samaritan” who decides to put on a light bulb just in front of his house. That one bulb lights up a little part of this area and He probably would succeed in saving one person from that one ditch in the illuminated area. Now imagine every single person puts on the light bulb in front of his house. The actions of these individuals have transformed that dark neighbourhood into a lit one. Those good Samaritans are active citizens who have made an impact small as it seems.

This illustration can be related to our every community. Your actions as a Jaycee should be to favour your community. Think of ways your community can benefit from your existence. Incorporate the values of the organization into every area of your life. The world cannot be better if we decide to wait for the other person to do something. The fate of your community rests on your shoulders. Be that Active Citizen and do something about that problem you see.



*Members of Junior Chamber International are called Jaycees.

Just in case you want to learn more about JCI, here is a link. You could also do well to search for Junior Chamber on google.


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