Now, more than ever, we need to stand up

Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 14:14

However you voted last Thursday, events since the UK referendum results were announced have been tumultuous and shocking to say the least. Political resignations and in-fighting, the worrying rise of post-referendum racism, turmoil in the markets, and a country that seems to be pitted against itself, fractured along lines of geography, age and beliefs.

And there’s a lot of anger. Young people, who saw themselves as European and looked forward to a lifetime of job opportunities and friendships that would have been unimaginable to their grandparents, are angry because they see their future diminished. Others, like those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are angry because this vote has jeopardised a United Kingdom that was hard-won - or because they now face leaving the EU against their will. There are many who voted to stay because the EU has brought peace to a continent that has spent centuries at war, or because they see the EU as leading in the crucial global issues of international development, human rights and the environment - which they now feel is at risk.

But it’s not only people who voted to stay who are angry. Many people who voted to leave did so because of anger - at the establishment, at the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of an unaccountable few, at political parties who didn’t listen to them, at an increased sense of being alienated in their own country.

These are the same drivers of poverty that we see in our work - inequality, discrimination against women, unresponsive governments, regressive tax systems, lack of decent jobs and investment in public services. These are the root causes of poverty that we are fighting across the world.

But we must remember that people are angry because they care. This is a debate over the future of the sort of country and the sort of world we want to live in, and it isn’t just taking place in the halls of Westminster or the boardrooms of the City. It’s taking place at dining tables, pubs, schools, water coolers, cafes, bus stops and living rooms up and down the country. More people turned out to vote in this referendum than at any election since 1992. More people are engaging in politics and in public life than I’ve seen in my lifetime.

So it’s now, more than ever, that we all need to stand up and shape the environment we want our children to grow up in. Don’t believe those who say there’s nothing you can do.

We need to harness this energy that has been created, to come together, to engage in a respectful, positive discussion and learn from what has happened.

ActionAid’s mission is to change lives - for good. We’ve been fighting against the odds, against the powerful global systems that keep women and girls poor, since we started in 1972. We’re certainly not going to stop now.

So today, as your Twitter feed delivers more uncertainty and more disagreements take a moment to do something that will help shape our future.

Show love and solidarity against racism

We’ve been horrified at the rise in racist attacks that have been reported since the referendum. But a campaign has been launched on Twitter calling on people to wear a safety pin to show solidarity with anyone in the UK worried about racism or discrimination.

Allison, an American woman living in London, came up with a simple idea to show solidarity.

It’s a small way to show that you won’t stand for racism in your community - but to someone who might feel uncertain about the country that they live in and their position in it, it might be a huge relief to know that they are not alone.

Get involved

Whether it’s going to an event to express solidarity, volunteering for an organisation who works for refugees’ rights, signing up to a political party – get involved. Don’t give in to the understandable temptation to retreat in the face of tremendous uncertainty.

Last week, we joined people around the world to celebrate the life and legacy of MP Jo Cox, who was utterly dedicated to standing up for those whom the world had forgotten. This week, let’s remember the words of her husband Brendan, who tweeted on Friday morning:

Join ActionAid UK

We know that working together is the only way to make change happen in a way that’s effective, that produces local solutions to local problems, and that lasts. Whether it’s joining up with women across the world to say no to violence that affects so many women’s lives, extending a hand of help during crises like Ebola and the Nepal earthquake, or carrying out campaigns with our colleagues in Malawi to end an unfair tax treaty between our two countries, we know our power and strength comes in working side by side.

If you believe that we’re stronger when we join hands with people rather than standing alone, then join us. Whether you can donate money to us so that we can continue our work around the world, whether you can donate your voice to help spread the word about our campaigns, or whether you can mobilise your community as one of our local organisers to take action for us - if you share our commitment to the world’s poorest, most marginalised people, we want you.

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This article was originally published on the ActionAid UK website.