As youth advocates, we are mainly driven by the passion not only to do, but also change things that affect us. We are the people who are more than certain that the senior citizens are not in the best position to entirely decide for us. So we rise, to engage them and enlighten them on better ways to discuss our issues and ultimately come up with better tailored interventions for us and our peers who may not have the same voice we do.
While participating in the Webinar by Accelerator Advocacy, I was once again reminded that advocacy moves much alongside policy. It works to influence policy to be adjusted. While at it, I noticed two things; the advocacy space is quite boring and action can take too long to be effected. You sit in a room with lawmakers and they are belching out law after law, act after act and you are bored to death you almost sleep through the one chance you have to talk to someone about a key issue of your life. Which then re-echoed the Webinar’s topic on innovation around advocacy.
I was impressed to hear what options the panelists fronted. There was one from Solidarity Uganda, which was a fierce approach of protests and marches. These activists, to symbolise the death of women’s rights used coffins to show the police that women’s rights were dead in the country and needed to be resurrected! Would you look at that! They also work with the Jobless brotherhood who drop pig heads at the parliament occasionally to express their disgruntlement. It is clear in the news that these strategies catch the policy makers’ attention and expedite the policy reforms we work for.
However, I was thrilled more by the intervention from the Sex Workers’ Task Force in South Africa, who presented one of the interventions being the use of pop-culture. They had recorded a video with one of the top hip-hop video directors advocating for the rights of sex workers. My ears perked at the ring of this idea. I imagined the flashing lights, the cameras, the action and all, and I realised that this just might be the road less taken.
I will explain why.
Before starting any advocacy, it is important that we have the backing of the audience for which we advocate. They must be fully aware of what the message we are pushing for is and they should believe in it. Therefore, the first step to any advocacy is awareness creation. The youth world over read less and watch more-and that is in no way a cue for you to stop reading my piece (lol). As a sexual reproductive health advocate, you would want the youth to understand the gaps in sexual and reproductive health. What better way than a music video of their favourite artiste singing about these issues, with colour and vibe? Something they can watch over and over again with their friends or listen to in the club while they dance? You can almost bet that if they like the song, they will like the message.
Africa’s internet usage increased by 20% for the year 20181 with the users almost 6 times as many as the count in January 2017. On top of that, between 2000 and 2017, the number of internet users grew by almost one hundred-fold, from 4.5 million in 2000 to 453 million by 20172. Considering that more than 60% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people are below 25 years, and that most internet users fall in that age docket, the advent of the internet as an avenue for awareness can’t be understated. With over 177 million Facebook users, social media becomes another avenue for us to carry out advocacy. We put our agenda on the web, directly address it to the people we want to reach (because even governments have social media accounts lately) and we let it play itself out right there because we already have our audience on the web too. How easier and cooler can it get?
Technology helps us cut time and costs, while keeping our work effective and interesting. We are at liberty to tell real stories of young girls affected by teenage pregnancy in rural areas for our target audiences to see like Peer To Peer Uganda ,Reach A Hand Uganda3 among others do. Given that our opposition thinks that we are very reactive, they will always expect us to come at them with protests, with rights marches and strikes. Much as these work sometimes, they are tedious, mainstream and put us at loggerheads with the people we are supposed to work with to achieve a goal. Technology thus provides a much better and friendlier approach.
With technology, we can collect quick feedback that can make our work even better. We can present evidence during our meetings with policy makers that will make us more believable. We can share our stories to many other people all over the globe who can support us through funding and guidance. Best of all, we can achieve all these results, without even moving an inch.
This blog was written by Patricia Humura, Program Manager Peer To Peer Uganda (PEERU) & TuWezeshe Fellow 2017.