Women's rights

Education, environment, women – oh, my!

Every generation has had at least one — a social justice movement that has helped change the fabric of the United States. It has pushed the country to reckon with its values, reconsider its moral fibers, reel in and expand the power of the government, and open itself to new levels of tolerance and acceptance. Ultimately, it has opened the eyes of many to what is fair, equitable, equal, and right.

I asked a friend to define the “social justice movement” of our generation. Her question to me – “Do you mean politically or lexically?” – made me think and consider what I honestly meant. I asked her to explain both, and this is what she said in part:

“Politically, the social justice movement is one that addresses class, privilege, and access … It’s frequently viewed as a leftist approach to inequality and economics. There are several large social justice movements: environmental justice, community organization, the LGBT movement, and the Civil Rights movement … Lexically, social justice addresses allocation and ‘universal human rights’.”

Our parents had the Civil Rights Movement, which forced all people to consider the equality and equity of various institutions within the U.S. We – as twenty-somethings – have the education reform, environment, climate, women’s rights, immigration, and LGBTQ movements (just to name a few!). Our values as a generation and the movements that have taken precedent in the development of non-profit organizations and continuous news streams demonstrate the areas that need our attention and our work.  “How Generation Y Works” says we as twenty-somethings are “eager to learn and contribute” and though we want to make a lot of money, we “believe in supporting nonprofit causes.” These characteristics definitely give us a clue as to how we can contribute to the social justice movements of our time. How can you leave your mark on one of these movements? Try these tips.

(1)  Become informed. A blog post from the staff writers of OnlineUniversities.com presents a list of “12 Ways Parents Can Contribute to Education Reform.” Number nine on the list is “Get informed.” Even without the support of surveys and studies, it is clear that twenty-somethings are very tech-savvy. Information lives at our fingertips. Read newspapers, journals, and blog posts. Follow the influencers of the industry or movement that tugs at you the most. Have conversations with others who have something to say. Information is our friend. Knowing and attempting to understand the current situation allows you to knowledgeably shape and assert your opinion.

(2)  Start at home. Is the environment your cause? Learn how to recycle, up-cycle, and compost, and then do it in your home. Set an example for friends and family to follow.

(3)  Volunteer. Offering your time is still a legit way to make a change. If the state of education in our nation matters to you the most, consider volunteering at a school or in an after-school program as a subject tutor or mentor. For those who are dismayed by the perils of hunger that infest many of our cities, donate food to the food bank regularly and volunteer a couple of times a month to organize their current stock of canned goods and non-perishables.

(4)  Vote. Several movements have initiatives that show up on ballots. If you’d like to make a change with these, VOTE! Encourage others to vote. Volunteer with voter registration drives to get more qualified voters in the system and to the ballots. Share objective information to make sure that people can make informed decisions.

(5)  Make your cause your career. For me, education reform hits home the most, so I went to graduate school for a Master’s degree in public policy – and then, I became a teacher at an inner-city school in Houston, TX. Many of us shy away from non-corporate careers because of the stigma our parents – and sometimes, our peers – associate with being a do-gooder even though we as a whole believe that “throwing oneself into a job for anything other than fulfillment and purpose is risky business.” Though this tip isn’t for everyone, it works for some who can really see the benefit of feeling like they are committing their lives to something bigger than themselves.

(6)  Start your own nonprofit or charity work. You can start a nonprofit or charity in the humility of your home with very little money, some love, and the desire to make someone’s life better. Making it official requires a little more thought, planning, and paperwork.

Contributing to one of our generation’s social justice movements is simple. It takes a little heart, a little research, and a little dedication. As many options as there are available to us to push forward, there is something that we each can do to make the world a little better.