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Civic engagement is either an individual or collective effort to identify and address issues that affect the public (Fiorina, 2005). Civic engagement is concerned with improving the quality of life in a community through various processes. These processes could be either political or non-political.
Civic engagement, also referred to as civic participation has many elements. In its most basic sense, it is about governance, decision making and about how resources in a community are allocated. Democratic governance belongs to the people and is fundamental in civic engagement. The collective action in civic education also ensures that institutions that do not serve the public good are reformed and in some cases replaced.
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Civic engagement can take different forms. My civic engagement is focused on HIV/AIDS, drugs and substance abuse. AIDS has become a global concern with many people contracting the disease. The increase in the numbers of people contracting AIDS is fueled by the increased drug abuse among the youth. The organization I work for focuses its efforts on reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Almost every society has been negatively affected by the rate at which HIV/AIDS is spreading and the challenges associated with it such as drugs and substance abuse.
In my civic engagement, the first step was to identify the cause of the increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. I took the initiative to educate the community on the various ways of contracting this disease. Some of these ways include: mother to child transmission, sharing sharp objects, blood transfusions where blood is not screened and having unprotected sex. During my civic engagement, I noted that there was hesitation to give sex education to the children and this led individuals to grow up ignorant on sexual matters. Talking to the children about their sexuality has made them aware of the common ways through which they can contract HIV/AIDS.
I advocated for condom use during sexual intercourse in my sensitization process, as this is the best way to avoid transmission. In addition, I emphasized on using condoms because it prevents other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. From the sensitization process, I realized that a considerable number of people adopted the use of condoms. Consequently the number of new HIV cases decreased. One other achievement was reduced number of abortions. The use of condoms reduced chances of unwanted pregnancies. These pregnancies had been a cause of abortions as many young people could not shoulder the burden of such pregnancies.
Drugs and substance abuse in the community have triggered several civic engagements. The youth are the hardest hit and being the major driving force in a community’s economy. Nowadays productivity declines. When this happens, poverty sets in, which increases chances of HIV spread since prostitution becomes an economic activity. In my involvement with drug addicts, I found out that individuals turn to drugs for various reasons with peer pressure being top on the list. To counter the effects of peer pressure, I encouraged independent thinking, which empowers the youths to make sound decisions. When the youths are able to make independent decisions, they become less vulnerable to peer pressure and drug abuse. In my experience in this civic engagement I found out that it is crucial to educate the community about the adverse consequences of drug abuse. This is the only way that indulgence in drugs can be controlled.
I faced many challenges in my civic engagement. These became great barriers in achieving my intended goals. One of the challenges was ignorance. Despite educating the public, some individuals held on to the same practices I described to them as harmful. Even when I availed practical evidence to them, they found it hard to accept my education.
Another challenge I have faced is the resistance to change. Some communities have cultures that are against this civil engagement. For example, in some societies traditional circumcision is the only way to initiate people from childhood to adulthood. During the circumcision process, one blade is used to operate several people. This increases the chances of HIV infection. Some even engage in female genital mutilation, a practice I strongly condemned. However, it is crucial for people to remain vigilant to the cause regardless of these challenges.
In general, I see an obvious need for HIV/AIDS, drug and substance abuse awareness in the community. Through this awareness, empowered individuals can emerge from the society and drive its development agenda to the next level. The awareness can ensure that the community has morally upright individuals who are focused on living according to the norms, values and virtues that are generally accepted in the society. Consequently, the community is likely to experience social order and reduced cases of crime as people become more responsible than before.
The ultimate beneficiaries of my civic participation are the communities and more specifically, the individuals who took the intended purpose positively. The success of this civil engagement rests on acceptance by the individuals. Despite the effort I put in the process, the engagement could be successful, if people did not participate.
I have found that being only a volunteer is not enough to successfully see through this civic engagement. The magnitude of the process is overwhelming. Moreover, the task is challenging, given that most of the issues involved are taboos in many communities. This being the case, people tend to resist any open discussions touching on the issues. It required me to have great motivation and also go out of my way in recruiting more people to be a part of this noble cause. Engaging more people helps in covering large geographic regions, which increase the impact of the engagement. Starting with a small group and engaging them effectively is the starting point of the engagement’s success. Small changes in each individual are very important for the overall change. It is also important to have sources of funding for any civic engagement because it is a great investment and thus it requires a considerable amount of capital input.
In this civic engagement, I have learnt many interesting things. One is that the human mind is a powerful tool and it can be influenced in various ways. By changing one’s thinking, it becomes possible to change their attitude and even their perception of matters that affect them. In addition, change is inevitable. Though preserving our culture is important, time and other circumstances force us to change our culture and adapt to emerging trends that are compatible with the changing times.
I believe that a time, where the community will be completely reformed, free of HIV/AIDS and drugs, will come. This is achievable through ensuring that the engagement I started would continue beyond where I left it. It may seem like an over-ambitious vision, but one should not think that it is impossible. I believe that any gesture of kindness throws out roots in all directions and new plants will grow out of these roots.
Finally, everyone should be involved in civil engagements rather than leave them to a few individuals. Every contribution works towards a common communal goal, but most of all, people should be dedicated to bringing the change they envisage within their communities (Recchiuti, 2007). This way, the process of engagement will be swift and effective compared to when only a few individuals are involved.