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VIE+W | What makes an active citizen?


Active citizenship associates with an active citizenry, having the authority to engage in flexible decision making as characterized from influential citizen participation which contains activities like voting, joining public hearings, being part of citizen boards and participating in public opinion analyses. Active citizenship means people getting involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels, from towns to cities to nationwide activity. Individuals that define themselves as active citizens have the belief that poverty, disease and famine are just as deadly and destructive as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Active citizenship can be as small as a campaign to clean up your street or as big as educating young people about democratic values, skills and participation.

Active citizenship is one of the most important steps towards healthy societies especially in new democracies like Bulgaria. Youth are the core of the development process of each nation with holding the key of changing or continuing policies, but their contributions will not achieve full impact unless they are engaged in their nation as a whole. Furthermore, democracy does not only give certain rights to people, but it also suggests the “obligation” to appreciate the opinions of others. This was seen to be especially vital for youth, to teach them that they had to take account of the interests of others. Young people should be engaged to civic issues if the government allows them to do so.

"No one is born a good citizen or a good democrat or a good leader; it takes time and education." /Kofi Annan/

The future of democracy is dependent on the possibility for the young to participate in the democratic process or, paraphrasing Kofi Annan, to include young people from birth. This is directly connected to the capacity of the education system to nurture young people who are aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, take action for social and environmental justice, hold their governments accountable and stand up for other people’s rights.

Young people might be active in their communities in many different ways. For example, some people choose to get involved in issues or causes that directly affect their lives at a local level, while others might want to do something to make a difference to a cause that has an impact globally. Lately, there has been a significant interest among young people to fight climate change. Further interests include campaigns against war crimes, discrimination and child labour. Thus, one of the most important ways for young people to become involved in the community life and become more politically active is to take action locally. In this way they will be better aware of the specific issues that have a direct impact at their personal growth and development. Participating in youth organizations, global networks and NGOs can be considered as a great option for young people to make a difference at local, national and international level. Demonstrations, strikes, and sit-ins are all ways that an active citizen might work toward the change he/she believes in. Famous activist organizations are: The Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Black Lives Matter, Professors without borders, etc.

Advice & Tips on How to Show a Good Citizenship:

  • Encourage others to make a change;

  • Volunteer;

  • Start a blog about local issues;

  • Participate in the community;

  • Stay informed about the world around you;

  • Protect the environment;

  • Respect the rights and property of others;

  • Take responsibility for your action;

  • Organize a community gathering;

  • Help people in need;

  • Have a good understanding of the government.

To conclude, active citizenship is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills and actions that aim to contribute to building and maintaining a decision society. Active Citizenship supports democratic cooperation that is based on the acceptance of universal human rights and the rule of law, values diversity and includes the whole community.

Stop blaming, start acting!

by Rumyana Gargavelova


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