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Season 5 Episode 9 – Existential Risk, Climate Crisis & Indigenous Rights with Natalie Jones

For this week’s episode, host Muna Gasim and panellist Eddie Kemberry are joined by Natalie Jones, Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to discuss existential risk, the climate crisis, indigenous rights, and the ways that all three intersect. Natalie shares insights into the nature of global, existential risks and how we can think ahead to protect the rights of future generations. We also discuss the need for substantial and meaningful representation of indigenous peoples in decision- and policy-making.

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Season 5 Episode 9 – Existential Risk, Climate Crisis & Indigenous Rights with Natalie Jones

For this week’s episode, host Muna Gasim and panellist Eddie Kemberry are joined by Natalie Jones, Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to discuss existential risk, the climate crisis, indigenous rights, and the ways that all three intersect. Natalie shares insights into the nature of global, existential risks and how we can think ahead to protect the rights of future generations. We also discuss the need for substantial and meaningful representation of indigenous peoples in decision- and policy-making.

Natalie Jones works on how global injustice and inequality can potentially contribute to existential risk, with a particular interest in climate change. Her PhD work focused on accountability and procedural justice in global governance. Her background is in international law and climate policy, including as a Staff Writer for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Research Assistant at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, and a judges’ clerk at the High Court of New Zealand. She holds an LLM in international law from the University of Cambridge, and an LLB(Hons) and BSc in physics from the University of Canterbury.

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is an interdisciplinary organization bringing together researchers from the law, anthropology, engineering, maths, political science and more to understand existential risk (threats that are global in nature), how they are caused, and how to mitigate them. Existential risks include biological threats such as pandemics, risks stemming from developments in technology and AI, and perhaps most notably, the climate crisis. Each of these threats bears immense implications for human rights.

“Who is being heard in these conversations, and how? And under what conditions? And does participation translate into influence or power over outcomes? And if not, how can it do so?”

Natalie Jones

Eddie, Muna, and Natalie discuss the individual and cultural bias in favor of the present over the future, and the difficulty of protecting the health and rights of generations which will follow ours. In the face of current, widespread threats to human rights, there is a risk of postponing climate mitigation discussions, since the effects of climate change can seem far off. Natalie stresses that response to current human rights abuses and response to the climate disaster are not mutually exclusive – in fact, many programs, like the Green New Deal, understand the deep connectivity between capitalism, human rights abuses, and environmental exploitation, and seek to remediate social and economic inequality hand in hand with offering climate solutions. Abuse of the environment is inextricable from the exploitative economic systems which favor short term capital gain to long term communal investment. The climate crisis does not have a singular solution, nor do the complex economic, political, and cultural conditions which have given it rise.

“If you’re hearing the voices of the communities that are going to be affected by these policies, and if you know how they’re going to affect these communities, then … it’s a lot easier to actually get it right and to make climate policy that works for both communities that are really at the front lines and … reducing emissions and promoting climate action overall.”

Natalie Jones

When governments and international organizations are making critical decisions about climate mitigation and response, it is essential that the right people are not only being heard, but also having their perspectives honored and translated into actual action. Decision-making bodies are all too often at risk of perpetuating undue harm in vulnerable communities in the name of environmentally minded policies – as Natalie explains, these harms can be prevented by committing to meaningful participation and collaboration with stakeholders. Slowly, the global community is waking up to the urgent need to protect and expand indigenous rights. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples promoted this agenda, and recent years have seen an increase in protests, activism, and public outcry, including the Keystone XL Pipeline protests. While advances have been made by some governments and international organizations to include indigenous people at decision-making tables, this progress has been conspicuously lacking in areas like investment and trade, areas which would confer autonomy and lasting control.

“A sort of example here is the policies which have been called the Green New Deal type of policies, which are really aimed at combating inequality at the same time as combating the climate crisis. It’s about conceptualizing these two things as sort of both as crises and tackling them both … There’s a lot of literature out there that indicates that it can be done. That it’s not you know, human rights or the environment. It’s not like, prosperity or the environment. It’s really both, at the same time.”

Natalie Jones

The study of existential risk is a burgeoning field with abundant resources for listeners who are interested in getting more involved (see below for more details). Listeners who live on indigenous lands in countries that have colonial relationships with indigenous peoples are encouraged to start locally – learn the history of the land on which you now live. Listeners who live in the UK or elsewhere in Europe are encouraged to learn more about global history, particularly the global history of colonization that might not have been taught in schools. All listeners are encouraged to pay attention to ongoing movements and protests in defense of indigenous rights, learn about the issues and what is at stake, and determine how best to support these movements.

Learn More:

Natalie Jones is on Twitter at @nataliejon_es

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge.

Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford.

Future of Life Institute, Boston, USA.

The Precipice, by Toby Ord.

The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Report, 2021.

Some resources to learn more about indigenous rights and indigenous peoples’ role in combating existential risk:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

How to Survive an Apocalypse and Keep Dreaming, by Julian Brave NoiseCat.

As you might hear, our guest today is a person who stammers. Stammering affects up to 3% of adults in the UK. To learn more:

Stammering resources: Stamma.org

Words Fail Us by Jonty Claypole 

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Season 5 Episode 8 – Human Rights in the Digital Space

For this week’s episode, we are delighted to welcome Alina Utrata, a Ph.D. candidate in Politics and International Studies and a 2020 Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, whose research focuses on the influence of technology on state and corporate power. She joins our host Muna Gasim and producer Sam Baron to discuss how Big Tech companies are impeding and restricting our human rights in the digital space, and what type of change is necessary to begin tackling this threat. Their conversation touches on the enormous amounts of power companies such as Facebook can wield on the global stage, and how poor data security can endanger and cost lives.

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Season 5 Episode 8 – Human Rights in the Digital Age: A Conversation with Alina Utrata

For this week’s episode, we are delighted to welcome Alina Utrata, a Ph.D. candidate in Politics and International Studies and a 2020 Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, whose research focuses on the influence of technology on state and corporate power. She joins our host Muna Gasim and producer Sam Baron to discuss how Big Tech companies are impeding and restricting our human rights in the digital space, and what type of change is necessary to begin tackling this threat. Their conversation touches on the enormous amounts of power companies such as Facebook can wield on the global stage, and how poor data security can endanger and cost lives.

Although some tech companies try to adhere to their obligations set forth in international human rights frameworks such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Alina argues that these corporations still possess disproportionate amounts of power. As she points out, social media and other Big Tech companies are able to freely promote or suppress content on their own terms and with very limited oversight. She provides the recent example of Facebook’s removal of pages associated with the Myanmar military to illustrate how those at Facebook – namely Mark Zuckerberg – can freely decide what content the platform chooses to host or the crises the company decides to tackle.

Facebook’s removal of pages and accounts associated with the Myanmar military came several years after the UN concluded social media was playing an important role in the perpetuation and execution of genocide against the Rohingya people, with such platforms providing the military an outlet to disseminate misinformation, hate speech, and rhetoric throughout the broader population. As the podcast touched upon earlier in the season, the situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar remains dire. This begs the question: What influence could a ban on the military’s use of Facebook years earlier have done to mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis? And are there ways we can more effectively pressure large tech companies to reform?

“Corporations have obligations to society”  

Alina Utrata

Underestimating the amount of power held by these corporations can have catastrophic consequences for activists or vulnerable groups across the world. During the conversation, Sam, Muna, and Alina all weigh in on the recent rise of the social networking app Clubhouse and how its poor data security protocols have left people in great danger. Though the app is banned in China, many Chinese citizens have accessed the site through VPNs, and worryingly, recent investigations have shown that the poor data security practices of the application have allowed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to access the data of those using the app, and identify potentially identify violators within their borders. 

As Alina discusses, many activists using the app to discuss politically sensitive material such as the ongoing Uyghur crisis leaves them and their contacts vulnerable to surveillance and retribution by the CCP. Alongside a VICE article from a few months ago which revealed that the US military had been buying the data of users of a Muslim prayer app, Alina shows us how “everything that you do online is tracked” and tech companies can sometimes unwittingly or even intentionally aid invasions of personal privacy by the state. 

The discussion concludes with Alina asking us to look at the bigger picture. To gain an understanding of the power corporations such as Facebook possess, we must begin to understand how they interact with other forces in our world, recognizing the relationship between big tech companies, repressive states, and issues like structural racism. Identifying the role of social media plays allows us to begin tackling the problem, and calling out hate speech on these platforms when we see it, and remaining conscious of the invasive powers they hold, are actionable steps we can take to mitigate digital risks.

ADDENDUM: Toward the beginning of the episode, Alina misspoke and says that “in Myanmar, Facebook is the military”, this should be “in Myanmar, Facebook is the internet.”

Further Resources
More on Alina: https://www.gatescambridge.org/biography/17662/  
Follow Alina on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlinaUtrata  

Alina’s podcast on the intersection of tech and politics, the ‘Anti-Dystopians‘: https://www.alinautrata.com/podcast

VICE Articlehttps://www.vice.com/en/article/jgqm5x/us-military-location-data-xmode-locate-x  

Just Security Coverage of the Nestle case
https://www.justsecurity.org/74035/nestle-cargill-v-doe-series-remedying-the-corporate-accountability-gap-at-the-icc/

Alina’s podcast episode with Matt Mahmoudi on technology, migration, and racism: https://www.alinautrata.com/podcast/episode/5d36f3c3/the-digital-periphery-technology-migration-and-racial-capitalism and an article on Matt’s research https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/race-in-the-digital-periphery-the-new-old-politics-of-refugee-representation/

Alina’s blogpost about the privacy implications of Clubhouse: https://powerswitchorg.wordpress.com/2021/02/14/data-collection-can-be-a-death-sentence-clubhouse-in-china-shows-that-even-harmless-apps-may-put-individuals-in-harms-way/

Alina’s blogpost on how we should reform social media sites: https://powerswitchorg.wordpress.com/2020/12/02/seeing-like-a-social-media-site/


Alina’s blogpost about Facebook mimicking governments: https://powerswitchorg.wordpress.com/2020/11/16/should-you-have-a-right-to-a-facebook-account/

Facebook still runs discriminatory ads, new report finds – The Verge https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/26/21403025/facebook-discriminatory-ads-housing-job-credit-hud

Los Angeles police ‘wanted Amazon Ring BLM protest footage’
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-56099167

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Dalit Rights Matter: The Fight for Equality and the Long Road Ahead

Our conversation this week turns to the question of Dalit rights in India, assessing the progress that has been made and what further change must come. To discuss this, we are thrilled to be joined by Dr. Sumeet Mhaskar from Jindal Global University. An Associate Professor at the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, Dr. Mhaskar’s research takes in the experiences and vulnerabilities of workers both specifically in Mumbai and across the Indian nation. He talks with our podcast host Muna and panellist Akshata about the everyday persecution and discrimination Dalits still face, the failure of political and legal reforms to fight the Dalit cause and what the international community can do to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change. 


Though not codified in law or the Indian constitution, caste systems and hierarchies persist to this day, infiltrating all aspects of everyday life. Dr. Mhaskar describes how the effects are unavoidable, especially for those, such as Dalits, who fall at its lower end. From the area in which they are permitted to live to the type of job they are able to obtain, the caste system has an oppressive effect on all aspects of life for the Dalit community. They are frequently forced to take up manual and heavy labour jobs, with their hopes of more lucrative or skilled employment quashed by the persistent stigma that surrounds their background. Attempts to set up and create their own businesses are often met within police intervention or strategic abstinence from higher caste citizens. They can be denied the right to live in certain, typically more affluent, areas and attempts to marry those of a higher caste are still far too frequently met with the practice of ‘honour killing’. As Dr. Mhaskar outlines, such is the practice of killing one or both of the man and woman in a perceived attempt to save the reputation of the higher caste family. As Akshata and Sameet discuss, the presence of almost two sets of laws, one constitutional the other based on the strictures of the caste system, is greatly hindering the closing and combatting of social divides. With these inequalities so deeply ingrained across society, radical change is needed. 

“we cannot think about Hinduism without thinking about Caste” 

Dr. Mhaskar

Conversation also takes in the failings of political and legal reforms, which have been proven to do little to tackle the deep-rooted prejudices faced by communities like the Dalits. From the adopting of a modern constitution in 1950, in the eyes of the law, all Indian citizens have been viewed as equal regardless of their caste. Nevertheless, as Dr. Mhaskar alludes to, this is still yet to become a reality. Though legal rights may be increased through measures such as the 1989 Prevention of Atrocities Act, in everyday life these benefits are rarely felt. Many in the police continue to adhere to caste norms and perpetrators of caste-based crimes and atrocities can be seen to often receive sentences or punishments that do not accurately reflect the severity of the crime they committed. Our guest gives an example of this, citing the case of a 13-year-old Dalit girl who had been kidnapped and raped. In the legal processes that followed, those charged with the crime should have been done so both under the Protection of Children and Sexual Offences Act 2012 and legislation relating to the committing of caste-based crimes. Nevertheless, issues of caste were brushed aside and such is representative of the struggle Dalits face in having both their voices heard and their lives respected. As the discussion throughout this episode shows, discrimination is deeply rooted in all aspects of life. 

“A complete system failure” 

Dr. Mhaskar

In turning to changes in recent years, however, there are glimmers of hope. Amongst the Indian diaspora there is increased recognition of the need to apply pressure and show solidarity with the Dalit cause in India. Social media plays an important role here, increasing awareness of the problems. Indeed, Dr Mhaskar talks of how, from around 2007, there has also been a growing diversification of students on university campuses in India. The changing of the demographic in this sphere offers hope of both more inter-caste friendships as well as increased recognition of the need to push for substantial change in the treatment of Dalits.

 
It is important, however, that we are not too optimistic. Whilst social media platforms such as Twitter can bring pressure to bear, there has been evidence in recent months of Twitter officials in India not approving tweets or hashtags that openly discuss issues surrounding caste. Equally, whilst student cohorts become more diverse this does not directly translate into significant legislative or legal change. Without sustained and persistent pressure on the Indian government and state to tackle the issues faced by Dalits, Dr. Mhaskar sees little hope of meaningful change. Both within India and the international community we must work to promote and push for change, levying sustained pressure on the Indian government and individual state legislatures to address the blatant inequalities that still exist. 

Further Resources: 
Dr. Mhaskar’s recent work on Ambedkar’s fight against the caste system and labour activism: https://t.co/A3WoUBnXK6?amp=1 
Follow:  
https://twitter.com/sumeetmhaskar  
@DalitCamera 
https://twitter.com/ambedkariteIND 
https://twitter.com/dalitwomenfight 
https://www.youtube.com/c/DalitCamera/featured

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Season 5 Episode 7 – Dalit Rights Matter: The Fight for Equality and the Long Road Ahead

Our conversation this week turns to the question of Dalit rights in India, assessing the progress that has been made and what further change must come. To discuss this, we are thrilled to be joined by Dr. Sumeet Mhaskar from Jindal Global University. An Associate Professor at the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, Dr. Mhaskar’s research takes in the experiences and vulnerabilities of workers both specifically in Mumbai and across the Indian nation. He talks with our podcast host Muna and panellist Akshata about the everyday persecution and discrimination Dalits still face, the failure of political and legal reforms to fight the Dalit cause and what the international community can do to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change. 

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Season 5 Episode 6 – #NoRightsNoGames: The Uyghur Genocide & the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games

This week, host Muna Gasim and producer Sam Baron are joined by Zumretay Arkin, the Program and Advocacy Manager at the World Uyghur Congress, an umbrella organization based Berlin, Germany that advocates for the rights of Uyghur people, an ethnic group from the province of Xinjiang in Northwest China. Despite the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China, Beijing remains the host of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which has vast political and humanitarian implications. Muna, Sam, and Zumretay discuss the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur people, the political power of the Olympics, and how governments, corporations, athletes, journalists, and citizens can take action.

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#NoRightsNoGames: The Uyghur Genocide & the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games

This week, host Muna Gasim and producer Sam Baron are joined by Zumretay Arkin, the Program and Advocacy Manager at the World Uyghur Congress, an umbrella organization based Berlin, Germany that advocates for the rights of Uyghur people, an ethnic group from the province of Xinjiang in Northwest China. Despite the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China, Beijing remains the host of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which has vast political and humanitarian implications. Muna, Sam, and Zumretay discuss the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur people, the political power of the Olympics, and how governments, corporations, athletes, journalists, and citizens can take action.

Overview of the situation in Xinjiang

“I’m just going to say it bluntly. Currently, there’s a genocide.”

Zumretay Arkin

The Uyghur people are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China. It is currently estimated that more than 1.8 million Uyghur people are being held in concentration camps in China as a result of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s efforts to assimilate and eradicate minority groups. Since the beginning of CCP Chairman Xi Jinping’s tenure, perceived differences from the Han Chinese majority have been considered a threat to the national interests and thus attacked and criminalized. As a result, ethnic and religious minorities such as the Uyghurs have been subject to language severe religious persecution including the criminalization of religious practices such as wearing a veil or having an ‘abnormal’ beard, and the destruction of sacred cultural and religious sites such as mosques and gravesites.

The Uyghurs have been targeted with mass arbitrary detention in concentration camps and subjected to abhorrent abuses including unsanitary and unsafe living conditions, constant surveillance, sexual abuse, rape, forced sterilization and abortion, family separation and placement of children in state-run orphanages, and forced labor. Recent satellite imagery suggests that the network of camps is expanding, raising major concerns about the future of the Uyghur people.

These abuses constitute crimes against humanity and, as Arkin emphasizes, amount to genocide under Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games

“[The IOC] told us that they could not save the world, basically, through the Olympics, which is pretty condescending to human rights activists and groups. We’re not asking them to change the world. We’re just asking them to respect their own set of values which is clearly indicated in their own charter.”

Zumretay Arkin

While Arkin acknowledges that general awareness of the plight facing the Uyghurs has greatly improved over the past few years, she notes that concrete actions by the international community have been slow, and there remains much to be done. The selection of Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has been widely criticized by human rights advocates, who view the selection as a tacit endorsement or excusal of China’s human rights abuses, not only against the Uyghur but also against persecuted peoples of Tibet, Hong Kong, and Mongolia.

Arkin recounts her experience during a meeting between human rights groups and the IOC – a meeting eighteen years in the making – which ultimately led to little more than empty promises and a dispersal of responsibility. Despite the soft power wielded by China both economically and diplomatically, Arkin and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) have called on national governments across the globe to orchestrate a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Games.

Acknowledging the lifetime of work that goes into competing in the Olympics, Arkin is careful to note that the WUC is not calling on athletes to boycott the Olympics – instead, they celebrate the power that athletes can wield to call attention to the human rights abuses taking place in China. Similarly, broadcast networks and journalists can use their platforms to elevate stories about the Uyghur genocide and persecution, giving essential context to any coverage of the 2022 Games.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, we’re not involved in these crimes,’ but many of these sponsors or brands, they might not even know their own supply chains.”

Zumretay Arkin

Muna, Sam, and Zumretay also discuss the implications for corporations, sponsors, and consumers before and during the Olympics, and beyond. Uyghurs detained in the concentration camps are also subjected to forced labor, particularly as part of the massive cotton farming industry located in Uyghur territory.

More than 20% of the world’s cotton supply originates in this region, and many large clothing companies, including Adidas, Puma, Nike, and Zara source materials from this region. While several nations, including the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have either implemented or proposed bans on cotton goods from this region due to the high likelihood of slave labor, it is still incumbent upon corporations to interrogate their supply chains and ensure forced labor has not assisted in the creation of their product. Consumers can also become informed and avoid shopping from companies which source materials from regions known to force slave labor.

The #NoRightsNoGames Movement

Arkin notes that social media has played a very important role in raising awareness and building solidarity around the Uyghur persecution. The #NoRightsNoGames hashtag has gained momentum and helped to spread information about the atrocities taking place in China. Social media helps connect people with actionable steps they can take to make a difference, from simple one-click actions like sharing a post, to signing petitions, to writing and sending letters to elected officials calling for action. While Arkin celebrates the power that social media has to democratize information sharing, she also notes that the strict restrictions imposed by the Chinese government make this tool much less effective within the country.

“Just last week I was speaking at the UN and China… replied to my statement saying that we should not be speaking at the UN… they basically tried to intimidate me at the UN… that means that our words, our work has some kind of influence and power, because they’re feeling threatened. For me that also counts as a victory.”

Zumretay Arkin

Reflecting on the advances that the WUC has made, Arkin first notes that it is difficult to connect with small victories when confronted on a daily basis with the realities of genocide, persecution, and the disappearance of members of her family. Still, she views the heightening public awareness of the Uyghur genocide as a sign that their campaign is moving in the right direction.

When brands support calls to stop sourcing materials from regions with forced labor, as M&S did just recently, these are important steps towards ending the persecution of the Uyghur people. By persistently and fearlessly advocating for the Uyghur people, Arkin and the WUC have drawn criticism and intimidation from the Chinese government – but Arkin says these repercussions only serve to reinforce the power and importance of their work fighting for the human rights of the Uyghur people.

“Behind all of these statistics and numbers, there are real people on the line … and they have human stories to share.”

Zumretay Arkin

When asked how listeners can get involved, Arkin encourages getting informed and using the power available to you to effect real change. Everyone has the capacity to become informed about this critical issue and to thoroughly engage with the Uyghur stories, not just at a surface level. Recently, the app Clubhouse has become home to multiple discussion boards addressing the persecution of Uyghurs.

As consumers, we have the power to affect change by boycotting brands whose supply chains exploit forced labor. Arkin encourages us to use our political voices to call our elected officials’ attention to the Uyghur genocide. Before we are athletes or spectators, we are human beings, and as much as the controversy surrounding the 2022 Olympic Games is a political issue, it is important to remember that it is a humanitarian crisis with real human lives at stake. 

Further resources: 

Follow:
@ZumretErkin
@UyghurCongress

Zumretay’s Op-Ed in the Hong Kong Free Press: https://hongkongfp.com/2021/02/06/in-a-year-china-will-host-the-first-genocide-olympics/

For an overview of the general context of the crisis in Xinjiang, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has a catalogue of theme-specific case studies/research called “Xinjiang Data Project.”

BuzzFeed News resource on the overall camp network with multiple parts.

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Season 5 Episode 5 – Understanding the #EndSARS Protests, Part 2: Women in Activism, Social Media, and the Road Ahead in Nigeria

This week, for the second in our two-part series focusing on the #EndSARS Movement, we are joined by three powerful activists working to end police brutality and abuse of power in Nigeria: Aisha Yesufu, Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar, and Lola Omolola. Our guests share stories about living under SARS control, insights about the power of the #EndSARS protests, and their visions for Nigeria’s future. To listen to Part 1 of this series, click here.

Aisha Yesufu is an activist, community leader, and financial literacy educator who demands good governance. She is unapologetic about her stance in fighting for justice and equity. Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaaris an award-winning chemical engineer and energy consultant. She is the founder of Ignite Energy Africa, an online community and resource hub which provides data and promotes innovation in the energy sector. She is also the author of Everyone Deserves to Sparkle and the founder of the Sparkle Initiative,which supports STEM education and encourages young people everywhere to pursue their passions. Lola Omolola builds communities that change people’s lives. She has more than twenty years of experience in journalism, spanning radio, television, and digital project management. She is also the founder of the Female IN Facebook group, which has brought together more than 1.7 million members across 100 countries to share experiences and forge a meaningful community.

Building upon our conversation in Understanding the #EndSARS Protests Part 1, our guests this week provide on-the-ground insights into life in Nigeria under the corrupt reign of SARS. Although SARS (the Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was established as a sub-unit of the police force to curtail armed robbery and kidnapping, as our guests explain, SARS was soon corrupted by the power they wielded. Before long, SARS became the perpetrators of the very corruption, violence, and terror which they had been tasked with policing. Young men were profiled and targeted by the police for things as simple as owning an iPhone or driving an expensive car. Police officers also routinely harassed, threatened, stalked, and violated young women.

“This is not acceptable. Citizens have a right to protest in Nigeria and nobody can stop that.”

Aisha Yesufu

In October 2020, protests erupted across the country. Aisha Yesufu emphasizes the fundamental importance of social media to the surge and coordination of public outcry and protests. Social media helped disperse information – not only about the murders and violence being perpetrated by the police, but also key details about protests. This enabled larger groups of people to join in the movement. Social media also provided an invaluable record of the offenses committed by the police during the protests. When protestors were attacked and teargassed by the police, videos and photos that were posted to social media became key evidence against the attempts of the government to gaslight the public and deny the attacks. The rise of social media has also democratized the exchange of information in Nigeria. Unlike the days of Yesufu’s childhood, when news broadcasts were controlled by the government and dispatched only twice a day, social media has all but destroyed the barriers to both sharing and receiving information.

“Every time women are coming together, it scares the structures, the traditional structures…”

Lola Omolola

Social media has also created space for Nigerian women, in particular, to share their experiences and find community. As our guests share, women have long stood at the forefront of the movements to advance change while also bearing the brunt of the pain inflicted by injustice. Lola Omolola notes the power that can be ignited by finding community and recognition through social media and through pages such as FIN, which empowers women to organize and mobilize to rectify unjust power structures.

We also discuss the collaborative, community-focused nature of the #EndSARS protests, a key pillar of the movement’s effectiveness. Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar shares that a strong commitment to the movement inspired not just activists, but others such as lawyers and doctors to contribute their skills and resources to supporting the cause. Our guests also stress that a successful movement is made up of whole communities contributing their different skill sets – from marching, to writing, to policy-building, to political organizing – to a shared vision of a more just future.

“Young people want to also be engaged, have a say in the future of our nation. We want to know that we are being listened to… The country belongs to us and our children and our generations to come.”

Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar

When looking ahead to Nigeria’s future, Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar envisions a country which works for and listens to its younger generations, tapping into the nation’s vast potential. Omolola is working to build a community in which every woman truly knows the power and importance of her own voice. In Yesufu’s view, cycles of corruption will not be broken until the people become invested and involved in politics. When people reclaim the power of their voice and vote through government, there will be meaningful and lasting change. Our guests encourage all listeners to first, educate themselves, and then get involved as best suits their skills, their abilities, and their passions.

Read more

“I am proud that young Nigerians are driving change – we will no longer be ignored.” Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar, The Independent

Female IN (FIN) Facebook Group

Aisha Yesufu: ‘#EndSARS​ is a fight for the next generation of Nigerians’ – BBC Africa

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Season 5 Episode 5 -The #EndSARS Protests, Part 2: Women in Activism, Social Media, and the Road Ahead in Nigeria

This week, for the second in our two-part series focusing on the #EndSARS Movement, we are joined by three powerful activists working to end police brutality and abuse of power in Nigeria: Aisha Yesufu, Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar, and Lola Omolola. Our guests share stories about living in fear under SARS, insights about the power of the #EndSARS protests, and their visions for Nigeria’s future