Activism 101: 10 Ways to start becoming a Humanitarian on World Humanitarian Day 2011

This image is © World Humanitarian Day website.

Every day humanitarian aid workers and advocates help millions of people around the world. They battle hunger, disease and violence against women in some of the most inhospitable situations, locations and climates and they continue to do so despite the risks of kidnappings, death threats, murder and other deadly and abusive behaviour from the communities they work within.

Today is World Humanitarian Day –  a day for celebrating the people helping people.  World Humanitarian Day recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who risk their lives to give others help and hope. It is also about inspiring the spirit of aid work, charity and humanitarianism in everyone.

In honour of World Humanitarian Day this year, we bring you 10 ideas to inspire you to take action and get involved with the cause to end violence against women (VAW) which is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world:


Inspirational Idea 1: Start Small. Many people lapse into apathy because they feel that there is nothing that they, as an individual, can do to help others effectively. Yet every little action helps be it signing a petition, sponsoring a girl for schooling or helping spread the word about an anti-VAW campaign. Check out the World Humanitarian Day page for ideas on how to get involved starting THIS World Humanitarian Day!

Inspirational Idea 2: Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! If you have several hours per week to spare, contact your local VAW nonprofit such as your area’s battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre and sign up with their volunteer programme. Don’t have much time on your hands but want to help? Get involved with micro-volunteering or try virtual volunteering from home.

Inspirational Idea 3: Take a Sabbatical. If your employer/workplace and your finances allow you to do so, take a sabbatical and sign up for a full-time volunteering gig which can range from 3 months to a year. A volunteer placement abroad with communities in countries that need help the most can not only help widen your horizon but possibly kick off a lifetime of commitment to doing good.

Inspirational Idea 4: Get on the (Activism) Bandwagon. When you come across any anti-VAW campaign or event in your area or online such as Portraits for Pixels, SlutWalk, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Sexual Assault Awareness Month or Domestic Violence Awareness Month, don’t just sit back and do nothing. Contact the organisers and get involved!

Inspirational Idea 5: Follow the Role Model. If you’re stumped for ways to start your humanitarian work, seek out examples of men and women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their fellow human beings and to change the world. No idea where to start? Check out our 2010 list of 16 Female Role Models to begin with and go from there!

Inspirational Idea 6: Be an Upstander. When you see a woman or girl experiencing any form of gender-based violence in your community, take action – call the local police, step in to diffuse the situation, enlist the help of other people around you. Don’t just walk away – follow your compassion and stop the violence.

Inspirational Idea 7: Find Kindred Spirits. Getting started with humanitarian work can be daunting given the scale of the challenges we face. Even the cause to end violence against women itself seems intractable as activists and aid workers battle deeply ingrained cultural and economic practices that can be both brutal and a prelude to brutality against women. You don’t have to do it alone – get your best friend to join you, join the local branch of social service clubs such as the Rotary International or Soroptimist International. Teamwork helps implement the work needed to bring change faster and more effectively.

Inspirational Idea 8: Act Local. Humanitarian work can be conducted anywhere in the world – you don’t necessarily need to go abroad to do it. Sign up to help raise funds for your local battered women’s shelter. Take a helpline shift at your local rape crisis centre. Help provide temporary shelter and a listening ear for an abused woman you know.

Inspirational Idea 9: The Business of Compassion. If you own a business, start looking at ways of giving back to your community by starting a staff volunteer programme with your local women’s shelter or partnering with a social service club such as Rotary International to raise funds for your choice of anti-VAW nonprofit.

Inspirational Idea 10: Just Do It! We hope that this article has got you thinking about ways in which you can help women and girls worldwide… but thinking about it isn’t enough, the question is: “What are you going to do about it?” So take run with your inspiration today and take action before you talk yourself out of starting humanitarian work. After all – what you do today may well save someone’s life or change it for the better… forever.


4 thoughts on “Activism 101: 10 Ways to start becoming a Humanitarian on World Humanitarian Day 2011

  1. Hi. I wanna become a humanitarian. Please would you mind to help me wih this? How am i supposed to start or who to contact?
    thank you a lot and wish all the best!

  2. I would like to be a great humanitarian but I’m not sure where to start i volunteer for local things in my community but it just doesn’t seem enough