What is advocacy? What does advocacy require? How can we organize an effective advocacy campaign?
A group of sixty Nepalese students from three different universities worked together trying to answer these questions, during the work camp “Advocacy and volunteering” organized by Moonlight Children’s Home, within the international project “World Wise Web”.
The aim of this workshop was to provide the participants with the basic knowledge about advocacy, giving them some examples of successful campaigns lead by big organizations and to teach them how to plan and organize a campaign.
What does it mean talking about advocacy in a developing country like Nepal? Nepal is a quite young democracy – until 2008 it was a monarchy – and the first constitution was written only few months ago, causing a deep political crisis, which is still ongoing. While the country is growing up, facing important changes, we believe that advocacy is an important instrument to make people taking part in the managing of their own country, raising awareness about their needs and increasing the power of their voices.
What do you think if I say advocacy?
The concept of advocacy is not well known among Nepalese people so at the beginning we ask all the participants to explain what did they think about advocacy. Most of them knew just the legal connotation of the word or thought about advocacy as a work only for big NGOs.
Starting from their definitions, we gave them some theoretical information about advocacy: what is it, what does it require, why to engage in it. We showed them videos and images of campaigns made by the well-known NGO Save the Children and Amnesty International so they could better understand the meaning and the power of advocacy.
An example of advocacy campaign
With the third section of our workshop, we shifted from the theory to practice by showing them an advocacy campaign, launched by WaterAid Nepal, an international NGO that is working with local organizations about water and hygienic issues in the Country. Starting from a theme close to the participants (most of them were young women), we have analyzed the campaign “4 Days of Fun” in support of menstrual hygiene, explaining them all the steps taken by the association: how to focus on the problem, how to choose the target audiences, how to create a clear and effective message, how to involve a large number of people.
Activists for a day
Once given them all the tools to create a campaign, we invited the students to become “activist for a day”, pretending to be a Nepalese NGO committed to solving some problems of the Country. The issue of child labor, the rights of the daughters, the brain-drain, the maternal and child health were some of the topics chosen from the groups. It was interesting to see that they focused mainly on social issues related to gender discrimination. These is one of the most urgent and actual problem in Nepal, where women, since their childhood, do not have the same rights as men. All of them came up with brilliant ideas to mobilize people and to solve problems; we were surprised and happy to see them thinking deeply and in a critical way, since in their schools they are not educated to question about the reality where they live.
All the participants were so grateful after this day. This was a great opportunity for them and for us: on the one hand, they realized that they can be active protagonist in the change of their country and they can influence public policy and public opinion, fighting for their rights; on the other we had the chance to discover more deeply the world of advocacy in Nepal, by talking with different organizations, and to understand some problems of Nepal that we couldn’t see before.