The power of speaking up

Use your voice and stand up for what is right

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Illustration of a group of people, one with megaphone speaking up against tuition hikes.
ILLUSTRATION: Andrea Choi / The Peak

By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer

Content warning: mentions of genocide, warfare, and assassination.

Speaking up in the face of adversity, hardship, and uncertainty is immensely important. Nothing will change for the better if we never use our voices to stand up for what is right. Speaking up has a positive impact for those facing challenges and detrimental situations. It’s important to voice your opinion on right and wrong, as speaking up helps advocate for others whose voice might be lesser-heard or who struggle in situations such as warfare, discrimination, or an overall lack of equality. 

Some may see speaking up as the bare minimum, while others may disregard the impact that voicing one’s opinion on important matters really has. However, staying silent is part of the problem. Many people hesitate to speak out when it comes to politics, human rights, genocide, or discrimination due to fear of saying the wrong thing or doubt that their opinion matters — which it does. What some people don’t know is that not speaking up for what is right or condemning what is wrong is part of the problem. Speaking up isn’t just about showing solidarity, it also spreads awareness so others can have a better understanding of the issues at hand. We must use our voices to speak out against conflict and amplify the voices of those who aren’t being heard by the media. If not, nothing will ever change for the better, and rather deteriorate further. Speaking up is better than not saying anything at all.

Think of the impact Greta Thunberg has had on climate change activism. In 2018, Thunberg initiated a protest outside Sweden’s parliament all by herself, but with every passing day more and more people joined to the point of receiving international coverage. Thunberg raised her voice, with no one else by her side, and yet it inspired hundreds of thousands to enact protests all over the world, including Canada — her book No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference exemplifies the exact power one individual has. Another example is Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt at only 15 after speaking out against the prohibition on girls receiving education in Pakistan. Her actions eventually led to Pakistan’s government ratifying the Right to Education bill and the creation of a $10 million education fund.

Speaking up is especially impactful when it comes to issues where multiple communities are affected. Take the Québec student strikes of 2012 as an example, where 60,000 students formed a temporary coalition to repeal a 75% tuition fee increase by 2017. After months of protests and public demonstrations, and with the aid of celebrities and with 77.5% of the province’s students on strike, tuition increases were cancelled. Very similar examples have happened here at SFU: The Teaching Support Staff Union’s strike of 2023 got support from the Undergraduate Solidarity Society (USS), and now the USS has their own protest in the form of a tuition refund. 

Some people think staying silent is the best way to avoid controversy. Ignorance can play a part on whether or not individuals will voice their concerns and opinions in such situations. Of course, it’s important to ensure that the information you share is accurate. It’s also important to not let your lack of knowledge prevent you from speaking up. Although some situations are unimaginable and difficult to understand as an outsider, you do not need to be an expert on a certain topic or matter — politically, socially, or otherwise — to simply understand the difference between right and wrong. 

Many choose not to voice their opinions on certain laws, political movements, or notions, afraid of experiencing consequences. Not taking a stance on conflict under the guise of “neutrality” is an issue that only worsens human rights issues; not condemning and speaking against heinous acts only helps the perpetrators of said actions. Other times, people do not “take sides” due to ignorance on a matter. In this case, adequate resources should be utilized so that people understand what others are fighting for. Educating yourself helps others, too. With proper knowledge, you can bring forth a genuine understanding of important issues, so your peers can also stand up for what’s right and pave the way for a better future.

The current genocide in Palestine is a strong example of the importance of speaking up and showing support for those in times of hardship and in the face of uncertainty. Protests to free Palestine and calls for a ceasefire have been happening in Vancouver and here at SFU since October of last year. Many people around the world have joined the Free Palestine movement and are protesting against the genocide in Gaza. On the other hand, there are some individuals protesting against the liberation of Palestine and its people, which is utterly unacceptable.  Others have been ostracized fort aking a stand for Palestine. For example, Melissa Barrera, the lead actress of the upcoming Scream VII, was dropped from the project after sharing a post accusing Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Graffiti and vandalism have been plastered on homes, and places of worship around many Canadian cities — as well as internationally — by those who oppose the Free Palestine movement. This is completely inappropriate, disheartening, and intolerable. Hate crimes have been enacted against Palestinians and Jewish people alike, which needs to be condemned by everyone. 

For the people who are speaking out against such issues, keep doing so — this helps educate those around you on these important matters. The people of Gaza are still voicing their concerns and need help, and their voices are also drawing attention to excessive cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Standing in solidarity with them during this time will raise awareness and help support them in the face of inequalities and hardships. Stand up for those who cannot freely speak for themselves and voice their opinions. It is only then, when people come together as one, and actively assist in the fight for equality and freedom, that change will be made for the better. We cannot sit around and watch all that is going on in the world. People need our help and their health, safety, and livelihood depend on it. So, speak up, speak out, voice your opinions for what is right, and do not stay silent.

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