What is Citizenship?

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Citizenship is the status that a person enjoys as a member of a country and it comes with rights and responsibilities. A person can be recognized as a citizen of a country on the basis of their birth place, the nationality of one or both parents or through naturalization. In most countries recognition as a citizen of a country entitles people to civil and political rights that they don’t receive as non-citizens.

The concept of citizenship stretches back to ancient Greece, where it applied only to property owners and those who had been born within a city-state’s borders. Slaves, peasants and women were considered as’subjects’ rather than citizens and had no voting rights or any other rights. Citizenship was also linked to a family and kin group in the form of clans, tribes or extended ‘blood’ families.

In modern times citizenship is generally granted on the basis of jus soli and jus sanguinis. ‘Jus soli’ refers to the principle that everyone who is born in a country is automatically a citizen of that state, regardless of their parent’s citizenship and jus sanguinis means that if a person has a parent or grandparent who was a citizen of a particular country then they can acquire citizenship by descent. Citizenship can also be acquired through marriage or civil partnerships and through ‘naturalization’ (applying to become a citizen).

Most countries today define the rights and responsibilities of citizens in some way and they are usually enshrined in the constitution. Most citizens have the right to vote in elections and they can hold public office. They are required to obey the laws of the land and they may be called upon for jury duty. Citizenship can also entitle a person to healthcare and other benefits from the government.

It is increasingly being recognised that a key element of citizenship is active participation in democratic society. Citizenship education in schools aims to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to play an active role in their community. This can include voting, campaigning and participating in local community projects and activities.

A key aspect of citizenship is the sense that we all belong to a global community and that there are common values that we share with other countries and nations. The global citizenship movement focuses on the importance of building a sense of shared responsibility in order to tackle some of the most complex and difficult issues that we face.

It is also important to teach children about the importance of living sustainably and being responsible stewards of the earth. This can include encouraging them to recycle, grow their own food and use energy efficiently. We can also encourage them to take part in community service and charity projects. Having the opportunity to participate in community and global issues can help to develop compassion and empathy with those less fortunate than ourselves. This can be done through global exchanges and educational visits to other parts of the world.