Young activists talk rights and peace in South Africa

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Friday, Dec. 10: I will be leaving on a plane is less then 24 hours, catching a 18-hour flight to gather with close to 60,000 students and youth in Pretoria, South Africa, for the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) from December 13 to December 21.

A delegation of 40 young activists from across Canada -- of which I am a part -- will join mind, spirit, and body with youth and students from over 150 countries and four continents, with all the languages a dictionary can hold. We will meet for nine days and discuss how to shape the world, in more ways than one, and why we, the youth, can and must turn the ties and regain humanity's integrity. WFYS is the largest gathering of progressive youth and students in the world, and after the embarrassing labour abuses that came with the occupation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South African youth is welcoming us to speak progressive, speak positive, and speak proactive.

The summit is a perfect opportunity to allow different social movements to network and share their enthusiasm for social justice. But more then a parade of happy hippies who curse capitalism's father, the summit accounts for an interactive framework to set solid agendas between organizations and action plans for students who attend to take home with them and report to the wider community of student activist of their respective regions. The message of the summit is a strong one: change occurs, change isn't replacement, change isn't upgrade, and change is radical.

The Canadian delegation's declaration reads as follows:

"We call on all youth supporting justice, friendship and internationalism -- who desire a better Canada and a better world without exploitation, oppression, racism, sexism and homophobia, colonialism and war, who support aboriginal peoples' national rights to sovereignty and self-determination, who wish to reinforce the struggle for peace, solidarity and social transformation. Join us!"

Palestine and South Africa

Twenty years since the release of Nelson Mandela from a South African prison and the beginning of the end of one of the most repressive regimes in human history, I will be sharing the international experience of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Without romanticizing the South African struggle, it's important to recognize that civil societies from all over the world learn from each other. Holding the summit in Pretoria -- what use to be Afrikaners' racist capital -- only intensifies the lessons that social movements, local or transnational, must persist to maintain. The ongoing human right violations Palestinians have endured for over 60 years under the rigid apartheid system of Israel must find an end and pushing this at summits such as the one taking place this week is of primary importance.

After the successful 2010 BDS conference hosted by Montreal in October, which reunited over 600 people from across Canada and the United States, the WYFS will serve as a perfect platform for the coalition to extend their efforts. Indeed, the Canadian Festival Committee received a warm endorsement from the conference, which joins a growing list of student organizations, peace, environmental and other activist groups, trade unions and labour councils which have endorsed it.

One struggle

More so, the summit promotes a multitude of causes. There will be nine organized theme days base where woman rights, aboriginal rights, labour rights, immigration rights, education, health, fair trade and social change, are on the agenda.

Watch this space for updates; I will try my best possible to bring to my Canadian comrades an experience that truly belongs to all of us. An experience for social activism that is beyond complaints, gurgling and grimaces at the status quo, but one that wants to challenge it for a better tomorrow. Our tomorrow.

Aluta Continua!

Sabrien Amrov is finishing her undergrad in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa. She is also part of the BDS Canada coalition and member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at the University of Ottawa.

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