MARYAM and NIVAAL REHMAN became activists when they were eight years old, inspiring girls in their village in Pakistan to continue their education. The now 19-year-old twins have since worked for such causes as girls’ education, climate justice, gender equality and inclusivity. They have their own non-profit, The World With MNR, that uses advocacy, storytelling and development to take action and inspire others to do the same.
They have used their social media and YouTube channels to cover several events, including the Social Good Summit in New York City, the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., and interviews with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, and Madame Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank. They have received several awards, including the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. Recently they released a documentary on the status of girls’ education in Pakistan, and held global screenings to spark further conversation and inspire action.
“Activism is my rent for living on the planet,” is a very powerful quote by Alice Walker that has become one of the mantras we live by. For us, activism is a responsibility. We feel the need to stand up for causes like gender equality, climate justice, and inclusivity, because it is in our hands to make the world a better place. As global citizens, we have to become informed, understand global issues, and resolve them. We shouldn’t settle for a world with inequalities, one in which we don’t treat our planet well, and one in which we don’t give each other dignity and respect. We humans take so much from our planet that we truly need to pay “our rent” for living here. In our journey, we have also learned that we can’t do it alone. Others need to get involved, too. We have always aimed to inspire others to take action.
Here are our top three tips to get started:
Start with one cause
To be effective as an activist, pick a cause and start taking action, then expand from there. You may be wondering how it’s possible to narrow it down to one cause, especially with so many issues in the world, but we recommend that you start with something local in your community. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to make a difference, because issues of global importance persist in our own backyards, even if we don’t recognize them at first. Often, we are best equipped to tackle local challenges, because in doing so, we can use our understanding of our communities, volunteer on the ground, and have a lasting impact.
For us, activism is a responsibility.
We feel the need to stand up for causes
like gender equality, climate justice, and inclusivity,
because it is in our hands to make the world a better place.
As global citizens, we have to become informed,
understand global issues, and resolve them.
When we began our journey more than ten years ago, we started by recognizing that girls in a school in our village in Pakistan were quitting school when they reached Grade 5. We resolved to fix the issue by understanding the barriers to education they faced. We learned that girls were quitting because their families thought it would be best if they started to work to support them financially, not recognizing the long-term benefits of education for girls. We worked to inspire the girls in our village to continue their education, through workshops, and spoke to their parents about the benefits of educating their daughters. Some of the girls went on to high school, and we are continuing to work with the next generation of kids, to ensure they have the opportunity to continue their education, too.
Taking action for global issues is only half of activism. First, it is essential to understand those issues, including the background, on-the-ground realities, and ultimately how best to contribute to resolving the challenges. Make sure you don’t end up doing more harm than good, which makes this research phase critical before you begin your work. The best way to conduct research is through consulting a variety of sources, including credible books, articles, scholarly journals, films, and videos. Try your best to get a holistic overview of the topic, and ultimately decide what is your stance. As much as you may try to stay neutral when trying to understand global issues, it is also important to note that, as Desmond Tutu says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Therefore, try to understand all sides of the situation, and from there you can start to understand the best course of action, which will require further research.
Talent + Cause = Change
We have created this activism formula to help you on your journey. Combine your talents with the causes you are passionate about, and make a difference. An example of this is when we combined our talent for filmmaking and storytelling with the cause of girls’ education, and created change by launching a documentary in Pakistan. Our film features the girls in our village, and changemakers around the country as well. We held screenings of the film worldwide and are doing virtual events now to increase its impact. You can do the same by applying this formula in your journey.
Over the years, we have had incredible opportunities to support the rights of girls all over the world. While many people see the end results of our journey, there has been a long process of learning, research, and ultimately action. We interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai for the Malala Fund’s first-ever Facebook Live. We attended the G7 Finance and Development Ministers’ Meetings in 2018 to urge world leaders like the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, to invest in girls’ education. We even became filmmakers for Disney and the UN Girl Up Campaign’s Dream Big Princess project, which raised a million dollars for programs for girls around the world and shared the inspiring stories of incredible women with millions of families.
We were honored to start working with girls in our village in Pakistan, and eventually to advocate for girls around the world at platforms like the G7 summit, and we’re just getting started. We think that our journey shows the potential of activism, and demonstrates that if you stay dedicated to a cause you can make a difference. We urge you to see our story as your motivation to take action for the causes you believe in, and know that your actions will have an impact!
Article by MARYAM and NIVAAL REHMAN
November 30, 2020
November 30, 2020
November 30, 2020