Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 3, No 1 (2013)

Saving Africa: A critical study of advocacy and outreach initiatives by university students

Shafik Dharamsi, Samson Nashon, Annabel Wong, Paul Bain, Kayleigh McElligott, Erin Baines


This exploratory qualitative study reports on the perspectives of students belonging to campus clubs at one Canadian university who conduct advocacy activities on issues that relate to Africa. Our study focuses on a particular social action (advocacy) that takes place in a particular social site (university campus), with the aim to critically examine how students think about their advocacy work, what they see as appropriate practices, and their sense of the ethical issues around advocacy. Five themes emerged from our analysis of the interviews: 1) Knowledge about the issues; 2) Oversimplification; 3) Homogenisation; 4) Trade-offs and competition; and 5) Ethical engagement. Our findings indicate that the motivation for success and popularity became influential factors in the way that student-led advocacy initiatives were set out to be effective in the university setting. Advocacy activities thus became fraught with the oversimplification of issues, resulting in work that reinforced prevailing stereotypes about Africa. Such approaches to advocacy can propagate paternalistic and totalising images of Africans as helpless and waiting to be 'saved'.


Global Citizenship; Social Justice; Advocacy; Ethical Engagement; Critical Pedagogy

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