Maverick Citizen


Activism by design – the human-centred approach of grassroots organiser Faeeza Lok

Activism by design – the human-centred approach of grassroots organiser Faeeza Lok
Faeeza Lok. (Photo: Thom Pierce, The Actionists)

Activism often starts with one person and a unique story that drives an unrelenting desire to see a change in the world around them.

Faeeza Lok was born in South Africa but grew up in Hong Kong. As a mixed-race kid in a country that exhibited very little diversity, she was left feeling like she didn’t belong. When she moved back to South Africa at the age of 15 she found her home, the place where it all made sense. A country where everyone is struggling to belong in a vibrant melting pot of complex identities. 

“It’s my identity that birthed my activism.”

At 25 Faeeza decided to start the Voice of The People Movement. The idea was to solve local problems through design thinking, a human-centred process through which innovative solutions are found by consulting with the affected people to understand their needs, feelings and behaviours. 

Working in the township of Thembisa, Faeeza went to schools, parks and out onto the streets to find volunteers interested in joining her on the journey, training them up with the skills needed to be part of the movement. These included workshops on practising empathy, resilient mindsets and unlearning unconscious bias. 

They then embarked on a week-long door-to-door campaign, engaging residents to really understand their needs. From this research they put together an ongoing series of outreach activities focusing on clean-ups, skills training and community upliftment around Thembisa. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:

Let’s fix SA by getting our hands dirty and doing something that actively makes a difference 

‘A hug to my eight-year-old self’ – Thato Mphuthi’s journey from bullied school kid to activist and educator

Unable to turn away from the need in Alexandra, Linda Twala continues to serve

Pinky Mashiane – fighting for domestic workers’ rights all in a day’s work

Voice of the People paved the way for her next bold move. Faeeza is now the volunteer coordinator for RISE Mzansi, South Africa’s newest political party, where she is taking her ideas about empowerment and change to a whole new level. 

Activism often starts with one person but there comes a point when they need to find a team of like-minded people with whom they can walk patiently forward, laying the groundwork for sustained change. Faeeza Lok may have started alone but now she’s found her people and she’s ready for change. DM

The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who don’t just talk but take direct action. The people you can go to when you don’t know where to turn; who won’t stop working for the change they want to see in the world. The Actionists is also a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. 

Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles a wide range of people around the country who are providing vital services, intuitive solutions and unrelenting activism. And through the website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide tangible ways for people to get involved. The intention is to inspire and inform, to challenge the idea that nothing is being done, to create a network of Actionists and to bring people who need help together with the people who can provide a solution. 

Daily Maverick will be running an Actionist profile every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next year. Get in touch, nominate Actionists in your circle at or email [email protected]


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