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Driving Positive Social Change Through Youth Activism

When it comes to driving Social change, there are many definitions and descriptions which have been given depending on what specific Agenda is being pursued.

But for the purpose of today’s discussion, we will look at Social change in the context of creating a better society. A positive environment for people to thrive in. Correcting anomalies in the system and upholding the cultural and societal values in which people’s lives are improved and their dignity respected.

What is social change and why is it so important? What is the role of youth-led activism in driving Social change and how do we instill the virtues of Patriotism and a love for your Country?

The world in which we live in has changed significantly over the years and you can probably point out some certain times when life was very different from what it now is. The world has also faced many challenges which resulted in change when people tried to tackle them.

But what exactly is social change? Social Change refers to the transformation of culture, behavior, social institutions, and social structure over time. Many Sociologists also describe social change as the shift in human interactions that transform the existing cultural and social institutions. These shifts usually occur gradually and develop over time and in many instances people came together, building collective energy which propelled social changes in their day.

But for the purpose of our discussion we will define Social change…as …”The active process in which real people work to improve the lives of others. It is a shift in perceptions, relationships and attitudes brought on by pro-active engagement and activities…

And then… there is Patriotism… simply defined, Patriotism is love and devotion for ones Country which is clearly expressed in word and deed. This would involve and demonstrate Special affection for one’s own country, A sense of personal pride and identification with the country, Special concern for the well-being of the country and a Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good.

So how do Youth Activism and Patriotism work together? Can you be one and not the other? I spoke with a Youth Activist and the Country Director, Equity Initiative International, Ambassador (Dr. Chris Iyamah) who spoke at length about his experience as a Youth Activist and some Key factors impacting Social Change Movements. I also got talking with a former Lagos State Youth Ambassador for Ikorodu Division, Jackson Ayika who also shared his thoughts on the topic (watch video for details of their contributions)


It is important to understand that Social change is usually born out of unbearable situations which could be a number of things… One of those things is a dissatisfaction with current institutions. People clamour for change when they feel a sense of abandonment by the very institutions meant to help and protect them. When they have been shortchanged by the corruption in the system which seems to foster injustice and oppression.

Social change is also often a product of Economic downturn where people protest against the inequality in living standards, wealth distribution rapid inflation and an even more rapid decline of quality of life. This we saw during the Arab spring which was a wave of pro-democracy protests and uprisings that took place in the Middle East and North Africa beginning in 2010 and 2011, challenging some of the region’s entrenched authoritarian regimes and witnessing the toppling of many such regimes.

Social change is also born out of an evolving society. We live in an information age, a time when technological advancements enable us to access and disseminate information with lightning speed. As people are more informed their ability to question the status quo increases. In some cases it could even be a resistance on privacy issues and surveillance or an enhancement through artificial Intelligence.

Please note that Social change may not always be positive and in some instances it is a rebellion against constituted Authority, Parental Guidance and Family values. In this regard, many so called advanced societies are on a path of self-destruction.


Let’s for a moment consider the case of the Black Lives Matter Protests across the United States and how this buttresses the point of today’s discourse.

The Black Lives Matter Protests may well be the largest social justice movement in U.S. history with 2020 polls showing that over 15 to 26 million people participated in the rallies.

These demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice followed the murder of George Floyd’s murder by police which was caught on camera and causing the video to go viral. It went on for several weeks and garnered a lot of support in other Countries of the World as people stood with the movement in solidarity.

A sort of parallel social movement was birthed in Nigeria with the #EndSars protests which is a decentralised social movement, and series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which is a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuse on Nigerian citizens.

The protest saw Tens of thousands of young Nigerians taking to the streets to protest against police brutality after a video went viral of a man allegedly being killed by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), sparking what became known as the #EndSars demonstrations.

It was the same movement which spurred a massive youth participation in the 2023 General elections in getting registered and coming out to vote. Till date, 2023 marked the highest Youths Voter turnout and participation in the Electoral process.

Well, as much as these two social change movements appeared to make progress in many ways, the protests became known for Civil Disobedience which include Road blocks, Chaos, random looting and vandalism and destruction of public property. The confrontation with Security and Law-enforcement didn’t help matters and there were reports of violent clashes, arrests and in some instances even death.

It is these behaviors that have served to discredit social change movements in recent time. Is the violence and property damage associated with the civil unrest to be excused? When certain people are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent and extremist agenda, can they truly say they are patriotic?

When you justify the destruction or property, looting and violence as necessary to further your cause, then you damage your own credibility and lose the moral right to condemn another person’s wrong.

In Conclusion….The power of youth activism in driving social change in Africa and beyond can’t be denied and more and more young people are causing their voices to be heard as they seek social justice, political engagement. Pushing for policy reforms and dismantling corruption and other vices in our Institutions.

But we must be vigilant. We must not allow the passion and enthusiasm of our youths to be misdirected and channeled into causes and Agenda’s which are inconsistent with our culture and values as a Nation. No one who loves their country will actively seek to destroy it, give up on it and walk out on it. Everyone does not have to be an Activist but the moment you do wear that name tag, you have taken upon yourself the responsibility to act only for the wellbeing and benefit of the country they represent.

In the end, no society ever remains the same. Change is inevitable but we must decide what kind of change we want. The Change must be for the good of all.

Well, what are your views on this matter…?? Have we gotten it right? What sort of Youth Activism do you observe in your country? Is it born out of patriotism and moving the country forward? Let me know all about it. Our media handles are on the screen right now, you can reach us on any of them.

Well that’s it for now, I’ll see you soon… Cheers!!!

Zoe Okafor

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