Gezire Tembo is one of the youth advocates who attended the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London with Restless Development.
Sharing her experience of being an advocate in Zambia, and now at a global conference, she’s put together her top seven tips for creating the most impact.
1. Choose your advocacy topic
For Gezire, this is enhancing girls’ education by creating awareness of proper menstrual hygiene and management.
She says: “We often talk about equality in terms of girl’s education as opposed to equity. There are so many stereotypes that affect girls and women in performance and realising their full potential. It shouldn’t be enough just to send a girl to school in order to achieve equality.
“One would ask why connect menstrual hygiene and management to education. Well, we have approximately five school days in a week, which leads to 20 working days in month. And in that 20 days a girl could miss three to five days of learning because of a lack of proper menstrual hygiene.”
2. Collect data about that topic and how it affects the community
These issues could be affecting the community directly or indirectly. For instance, if a girl misses school that will lead to her having low self-esteem because her performance will not be as good as it could have been. In the long run, this creates low productivity. But we need data to track and prove this so that we can make our case for change.
3. Engage community members on the advocacy topic
By community members I simply mean the gatekeepers: the chief, the ward councillors, the clergy, the influential people like the mayor. By so doing you would have sealed all loopholes that may arise in terms of miscommunication. This is also a good way of enhancing support.
4. Have a punchy tagline: “YES I CAN PREVENT EARLY PREGNANCIES”
Everyone loves a good slogan.
5. Find support for your topic.
Once you’ve done all of the above, you should map the community or local area for stakeholders that support your advocacy topic or the stakeholders that are working on the issue already, especially within the government institutions. This shows that a wide network is concerned about that advocacy topic and there is need to advocate.
6. Let people know what is happening
For a campaign to be successful, you need to raise awareness of it. Hold an open space meeting where people can be sensitised to the issues you’re discussing. Members of the public can come and listen to your message, or you can be more targeted and have a selected few people attending the sensitisation campaign. You can also use the media, like we did for Youth Power.
From the earlier activities, derive stories that will give the basis and reason for one’s advocacy and that provide information on what worked well and what did not. This can be used to improve your future work.