The secret of getting ahead, is getting started
Indian road safety and youth advocate Aakash Shah describes how he built a grassroots campaign from the ground up.
Through three years of work experience in global social development and activism, I have repeatedly succeeded in disseminating various awareness campaigns to vast populations. These campaigns have ranged from youth and women’s empowerment, to road safety – always with a focus on vulnerable populations.
My road safety efforts started on a regional level, through a helmet awareness program in Pune City, which was recognized by the Deputy Commissioner of the Pune Traffic Police.
Moving ahead with my APD team (Action for Pune Development, an NGO I started in 2012 which can be found at www.apdindia.in) I continued to support Pune Traffic Police during Public Festivals and received recognition from The Pune Traffic Police as "Friends of The Traffic Police,” along with a Certificate of Appreciation.
The #SaveKidsLives campaign was started as a part of the UN Global Road Safety Week in May 2014. My #SaveKidsLives journey started when I collaborated with Ms. Zoleka Mandela, a global road safety ambassador and victim advocate as her daughter was tragically killed in a crash, Mr. Avi Silverman of the FIA Foundation, and Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr, now Vice Chair of NTSB, formerly at the FIA Foundation. We interacted at the UN General Assembly in 2014, with FIA Foundation being instrumental in the initiation.
The #SaveKidsLives campaign was shaped with the prime motive of drawing attention to the urgent need for better protection of children against road traffic fatalities, generating action measures needed for the cause. The campaign, together with partners around the world, calls on world leaders to ensure that the targets set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals are implemented.
Following the release of the Child Declaration for Road Safety, a vehicle for children to demand the safe roads they deserve, a group of 25 teenagers from ages 16 to 18 decided to collect a minimum of 1,000 signatures each in one month.
The focus was to acquaint students, from 5th grade to 10th grade, with the campaign. Unanimously, our team decided to collaborate with schools in and around Pune city. We arranged for meetings with school principals and coordinators to explain the importance of the #SaveKidsLives campaign through a short presentation, and sought their permission to promote the campaign in their schools. With their approval, we set up kiosks in schools and colleges where students could sign the Declaration.
We reached out to 1,000 students in each school, and a total of 20,000 students across the city.
Numerous flyers and posters in schools, colleges and other public places, played a major role in the propagation of the campaign. We held special assemblies in schools, conducted rallies in the city, presented to corporate stakeholders and extended our help to the Pune Traffic Police.
Keeping in mind that each individual has a role to play in traffic safety, we gathered voices of 25,000 people from all over the city, making use of every possible opportunity like parties, family get-togethers, college events and even clearance sales in malls, where a huge number of people could be easily addressed and approached.
We used social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, to post "Safies" during traffic awareness activities. The ambassadors also posted their "Safie" with slogan flashcards on various social media websites. The Radio City channel played an important role in broadcasting messages about the #SaveKidsLives campaign, which helped gather the support and voices of thousands of people.
I reached out to over 32,000 people within a span of 3 months and thus became the strongest supporter of the campaign world-wide. As recognition for my efforts, I was the only Youth Representative invited as a speaker to the Global Meeting of NGOs advocating for road safety in Morocco in March, 2015.
Youth for Road Safety, or YOURS, then appointed me as The Global Ambassador for the Post-2015 agenda , and I was invited to talk about the success story behind #SaveKidsLives Campaign in Jaipur at the National Road Safety Conference in May, 2015.
Another effort I’ve been fortunate to join is Youth Service America, a global youth organization that works in 100 countries, to empower youth to create measurable change. Recently, I have been working on the Safer Roads, Safer India program and am also part of the YSA Global Youth Council.
As an individual I managed to reach out to 32,000 people. This was just a small step towards global traffic safety - there are miles to go before we achieve the ultimate feat of halving the amount of injuries and deaths on the roads by 2020. If I could do this alone, just imagine how many people we can impact together.
It’s often said that "The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” With a Sustainable Development Goal set for 2020, we can’t afford to wait. As youth, we have a particularly powerful voice, and we can each make an enormous impact. It’s time to get started and combat road accident fatalities in this decade.