Youth Voices on Civil Courage I

written by

Sabiha Azad

Sabiha Azad is the second generation WAVE Youth Ambassador from Wales (UK). She has her background in grass root activism, focusing on youth inclusion and gender equality. She is passionate about embedding a more intersectional approach, supporting all communities and spotlighting marginalised voices. She is also one of the four authors of the 2022 WAVE campaigning and advocacy toolkit for young activists.

‘Civil courage is a type of courage, in which a person acts bravely to intervene or take a stand in a social situation.’

Civil Courage explores bystander behaviour and shifts us away from being passive observers into active bystanders who are vocal in supporting victims in any situation. Although not every situation will be safe to intervene, civil courage teaches us to intervene safely by assessing the situation and being active in ways that we want. This could be by alerting authorities or moving the victim away from the situation. Ultimately it shifts the collective onus back onto society – we tend to live our lives in silos forgetting the importance of being human.

The situations where I have displayed civil courage have primarily been in incidences of racial and sexual harassment. I live in a diverse city, and catcalling is a significant issue here. A young girl was experiencing racist sexual harassment, and visibly appeared to be intimidated. I intervened by just asking her for directions and this appeared to diffuse the situation and the aggressor left. I did not ask her how she felt about the situation, but I felt relieved that I had not ignored the situation and helped in this very small way.

Before this incident, I had the assumption that intervention would need to be aggressive or loud and I am generally a small person and felt that this would put me in harms way; however, taking a friend stance to diffuse the situation enabled me to intervene safely and ensured that the victim did not experience this alone.

Empathy is key in civil courage – we may all fear intervening; however, we know that when we are being harassed in public, we would want someone else to intervene. Practising what you would do in this sort of situations is key in preparing yourself to safely intervene in the future!