During my last days of my internship at Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), the Reach Every Mother and Child (Reach) Act was reintroduced in the Senate.
As the news was announced, energy swept through the office. People were beaming with excitement. The reintroduction of the bill was a major step in ensuring we could achieve our mission to end preventable deaths of mothers and children worldwide.
With a big goal like that, you may be able to imagine that reintroducing the bill didn’t come easy. Many individuals who care deeply about the issue of maternal, newborn and child survival had to be in the forefront and advocate for why we need this legislation.
State and federal lawmakers are busy people with a lot of responsibilities and issues to address. Without the work of activists, representatives can’t act on issues that matter to the people they are representing. Through advocacy and perseverance, we can make sure that the world’s most marginalized children are not left behind or forgotten by our country’s legislators.
Serving as an advocacy intern at SCAN this summer helped me gain a deeper understanding of the importance of advocacy in our nation’s complex and arduous legislative process. Ironically, it taught me that you don’t need to be an advocacy intern to be an advocate. Anyone can be an advocate at any time. All you have to do is care about an issue and have the courage and confidence to believe you can make a change.
I grew up wanting to be a human rights activist, but it always seemed like a distant and unattainable dream. Prior to interning at SCAN, I devalued the power of my own voice. I thought only monumental leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, who are capable of leading movements and making exceptional speeches could make a difference.
However, I learned that you can advocate in many ways. From writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper, to posting on social media or speaking directly to your elected representatives, there are countless ways to raise awareness about children’s issues and hold politicians accountable. While you may think your voice is insignificant, it’s critical to look at the bigger picture and realize that it is not. Together, our voices can enact significant change.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from the political activists who worked at SCAN, is that advocacy is strategic. You must define the issue you want addressed and determine what you want to achieve ahead of time to ensure your message comes across as clear and cohesive.
Policy change is vital to the well-being of children around the globe, but it will not come over night. It requires a movement of dedicated individuals constantly willing to put their voices out there for kids and advocate for policies that will make sure all children can grow up healthy, protected and ready to succeed.
As I continue to be politically active and advocate for causes that matter to me in the future, I will remember and be inspired by the excitement that filled the air the day the Reach Act was reintroduced in the Senate. Soon, it will be reintroduced in the House of Representatives, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how I can make my voice heard.