When I was a junior in high school, we had to write a ten page paper on a topic of our choice. I chose global citizenship and defined a global citizen as that person who travels the world, speaks many languages, and has visited dozens of countries. I therefore included myself in the category, as I knew three languages and have visited and lived in more than one country. Later, When I joined Global Citizen Year, as I reflected on my path to high school, I thought of how lucky I was to have received a scholarship to go to school overseas in the US. Also lucky I am to be a Global Citizen Year Fellow learning and working in Ecuador. I thought of how many of my peers in Kenya will never have this chance.
I realised that under my criteria, they would be excluded from being considered as global citizens, but I knew that many of them had more international and social perspectives than the students I knew in Maine who have traveled more. It dawned to me, many people around the world are practicing social justice in their hometowns even though they have no money to travel to other countries. This is when I realised that global citizenship is not defined by how many countries someone has visited, but rather by when people make a difference in their own countries, holding their governments accountable for factors that matters most for their country’s and the world’s poor.
To put this in perspective, I am going to tell the story of a girl I met here in Ecuador.
A little while ago, about only a month into my apprenticeship, I met a girl named Daniela who is 20 years old. She is working hard to make her village, which I am work in, El Juncal, become recognised as a constituency so it can earn funds and support from the government. The government claims her Afro-Ecuadorian inhabited “village” does not qualify because it has less than 3000 people. Daniela has only lived in Ecuador and has not visited another country. While she has attended high school, she had to drop out due to lack of fees and has no hope of attending college.
To me, Daniela is a perfect example of a global citizen. She has taken the knowledge she has to practice social justice, trying to make life better for herself, and the people surrounding her. Now that I have gained more experience, and more intelligence, I see that global citizenship is not defined by how many countries one has traveled or how many languages one speaks but rather by how one exercises their social justice and environmental rights, people who are willing to think “beyond boundaries” and work towards a better world within their own small world.
At the same time, we need to be world citizens. This means we need to know of other countries, of other cultures, understand and appreciate them. This I believe will help us better understand our own culture and accept other cultures as they come. Through this, we will be able to better my ourselves and the community around us.