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Posts Tagged ‘youth-led’

If you are from an outside group that wants to work with a community, you need to know the community. You need to spend time there, sleep there, live there, before trying to help or come in with recommendations. Until you have lived together with the community, you cannot really give any savvy advice or support because you won’t know or understand the community’s reality. You won’t have ‘mastered’ the community.’

Kenneth Nyah from Partner Vision (PAVIS), the organization we are partnering with in Bamenda, Cameroon, on the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) Project, gave us some great tips last week on how to do community-based, youth-led advocacy and support local action and change.

Timothy and Kenneth from Partner Vision (PAVIS)

Know the steps for good advocacy

  • Identify the issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Master the community by spending time there.
  • Identify the principle actions to take in the community, together with all the stakeholders.
  • Gather information and statistics that will support the case and help to shape the suggested solutions.
  • Synthesize information and statistics to make them easier for people to get a handle on and understand.

Model good advocate behaviors

  • Participation. All the stakeholders need to be included and the discussions need to be open.
  • Legitimacy. An advocate should be someone who practices what he or she preaches and lives the values that he or she is working for.
  • Accountability. An advocate has to be transparent and open and accountable for his or her actions and to the community.
  • Acting peacefully. An advocate should always look for ways to resolve issues in a peaceful way.
  • Representing the affected group. An advocate should be sure to understand the affected groups’ issues and viewpoints and to represent them, not his own opinions or agenda.

Be clear about your role as an outside organization

Kenneth described the main roles of an advocate or organization supporting local advocacy work as:

  • helping to empower the community to speak for itself
  • mediating and facilitating communication between people
  • ensuring that communication and dialogue happen
  • modeling behavior to people and policy makers
  • helping build coalitions so that local people can raise their issues and get resolutions.

Know what advocacy is not

  • An information campaign. Hanging up posters is not advocacy. You have to go deep into things, to take actions, to actually do something, not just ‘raise awareness’ or share information.
  • A public relations action. Advocacy is not an opportunity for you to create fame for yourself or your organization or political agenda. It’s about the community.
  • A strike or mob action. Advocacy should be strategic.
  • A pressure group. Advocacy does not mean ‘we want something and we are coming in to take it whether you like it or not.’

Remember who this is about:

First half of a storyboard by youth in Bamessing for video on early marriage.

You shouldn’t do advocacy without proposing a solution, said Kenneth, and the solution should come from the community itself, not from you. In community-led advocacy, the outside agency should not be bringing in its own agenda. It should not be manipulating people.

When working with youth, the agenda needs to come from the youth themselves. If the youth don’t have their own agenda, it’s very easy for people to manipulate them. Once you work with the youth to help them discover their community more, and to determine their own agenda for change, they will work on that and it can be very positive.

Youth-led and community-led advocacy is different than global advocacy campaigns which tend to be top-down. When people raise their own issues at local level, do their own research, identify their own solutions, discover the bottlenecks that get in the way of those solutions, and determine who to target with their advocacy actions, advocacy can be very effective.

One participant emphasized that even in global campaigns, local stakeholders need to be involved, because they are the ones who will give the stories, the statistics, and the effective solutions.

Find the information that already exists in the community

Collecting information.

Advocacy goes with facts and figures. You cannot do advocacy without figures, said Kenneth. And you cannot have figures without research. But there is much information that is already there, right in the community. ‘As outsiders,’ commented one person, ‘it’s easy to imagine that a community doesn’t have any information, but this is not true. We found so much information in the community.’

‘All the facts that youth needed to advocate for the water project* were given by the people in the community. The youth know who the key people are in the community. They know who has the information and the statistics. For example, there is a person who manages the local water system and who knows what the problems are with it. There is the chairman of the water board. These are people in the community who manage information! They have reports, they have meetings, they know these things. There is no need to come from the outside to do a big expensive data gathering campaign. You can go into the records that the community is already keeping. Working with the youth and community it’s very possible to find this information to support local advocacy.’

A role for ICTs

Another person shared the case of youth in Pitoa who identified malnutrition in the community. ‘The parents didn’t  identify malnutrition as a problem, they said it was not an issue. Maybe they were embarrassed that they were unable to give their children enough food. But the youth went with cameras, they filmed malnourished children, they went to the hospital to check the numbers. There is a whole ward there with malnourished children; they filmed there.  They made a video and showed it to the parents and the council and were able to get them to see that this is a problem in the community.’

The digital mapping that we are doing with the YETAM project (watch for a new post coming soon on this), said other participants, can provide the youth with an additional tool for local advocacy. ‘Youth went out to map their area. They saw the road network, they created a database about their schools, they saw the conditions of the hospitals and everything. Through mapping they were able to master their environment because they were there, collecting the data, tracing and making waypoints of everything. This fed very well into their advocacy work.’

*In this water project example, youth used their research, videos, interviews, focus group discussions and role play to advocate to community leaders, the village development union and the Ndop Rural Council around the water issue. The Ndop Council acknowledged the issue and Bamessing and its neighbouring communities succeeded in securing funding from FEICOM for the first phase of the Ndop water supply project for 214 million CFAs (around $450,000). Feasibility studies were done by the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy in collaboration with SNV and submitted to the Ndop Council. The project is expected to provide potable water in Bamessing, Bamali, Bamuanka rural and Bambalang communities.

Other successes of youth-led advocacy in the YETAM Cameroon project include that the Municipal Councils of Pitoa and Ndop approved financial support to youth micro-projects.  The Mayor of Pitoa municipal council approved 400,000 CFA (around $850) for the youth to spearhead actions to curb the high incidence of cholera in the council area. The Mayor of Ndop Municipal Council approved 500,000 CFA (around $1070) as council support for the youth to fight against the high rate of school dropouts in the Ndop council area. This support came in response to youth participation in the council budgetary sessions.

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