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Miasa ao amin'ny PHE (MPONINA, FAHASALAMANA, ary ny tontolo iainana) manome ahy fomba fijery miavaka momba ny zava-misy eo amin'ny fampandrosoana ny fiaraha-monina. A lot of the factors that hinder the realization of optimum human health are closely linked to changes in the environment. Toy izany, PHE projects bring about improved health outcomes, improved environment indicators, and more youth participation in natural resource management. As a young PHE advocate, it is important for me to find integrated and systemic approaches that increase people’s resilience and adaptation to climate emergencies. If you are a youth interested in undertaking your own advocacy journey, here are five things you should know in order to implement an effective advocacy campaign.

  1. Share Evidence-Based Data

Effective policy advocacy uses evidence that is gathered and presented to strengthen the case for change. It is important to have credible data to back up your claim so it is not misconstrued as just an opinion.

Cheryl Doss once said, “Advocates lose credibility by making claims that are inaccurate and slow down progress toward achieving their goals because, without credible data, they also can’t measure changes.” I have always used this statement as a guide for sticking with accurate data when framing my videos or any multimedia content. The first step to creating compelling content is to ascertain factual information and use it to showcase the reality of young people and women in these communities. Bridge Connect Africa Initiative’sHave you heard the story?” is an example of such a multimedia product. It is a short poetry piece that speaks on how girls are denied their childhood, the chance to complete basic education, and a promising future. It ends with a call to action for Kano State, Nizeria, to sign the Child Protection Bill into law.

Evidence helps us to really understand the issues around PHE. It informs us of issues we were previously blind to and leads us to practical solutions that work for several applications, anisan'izany ny:

  • Public policy.
  • Increasing public awareness.
  • Program design and delivery.
  1. Humanize Your Data

Data is the bloodline of effective policy advocacy. Humanizing data ensures that it connects with the realities of communities and policymakers. It is important to stay away from abstract communication. When humanizing data, feed the imagination of the reader. Ohatra, it is better to say, “One in four girls who live in Northern Nigeria have no formal education,” than to say, “Twenty-five percent of girls who live in Northern Nigeria have no formal education”. Using the former creates a mental map for the reader and lets them ascertain the sense of urgency needed to address the advocacy issue.

  1. Recognize the Window of Opportunity

One of my favorite quotes is amat victoria curam—it’s Latin and means “victory loves preparation.” As a PHE advocate, you must build a coalition to fully utilize a window of opportunity when it presents itself.

There are three major steps to building a critical mass of support for your fisoloana vava:

  • Policy learning. Communicate problems and solutions in a way that motivates action and allows information to reach policymakers through different channels or media. This may be in the form of policy briefs, fact sheets, infographics, radio jingles, columns/posts, or videos.
  • Attention focusing. Sustain advocacy by drawing and keeping the attention of your key audiences. Use key indicators, media, leveraging on international commitments, and days of recognition.
  • Policy community strengthening. Establish a network of actors from different organizations committed to championing advocacy. Examples include:
    • Setting up a coalition of civil society organizations that advocate for a specific policy.
    • Hosting town hall meetings for policy stakeholders.
    • Training community champions in order to sustain the momentum needed to get policymakers to pass the bill.

Once a coalition has been built, it is easier to leverage and identify windows of opportunity to meet with policymakers, host a public dialogue, leverage social media, or organize youth to work together to push for change.

  1. Understand the Policy Landscape and Messaging

Matetika, people are hesitant to accept an idea, especially one that involves change. As an advocate, it is important for you to present yourself as someone that will help them adopt these new changes. You need to understand the policy landscape in order to create an effective advocacy strategy. It is said that the messenger is often as important as the message if not more important. One must know the key audiences, policy stakeholders, influencers, and even the influencers’ influencers (they could be close relatives of the policymaker). Here are five tips to keep in mind to be a trusted messenger for your advocacy:

  • Dress how you want to be addressed.
  • Build your credibility, experience, and resources enough to be taken seriously.
  • Build more support to enhance the legitimacy of your campaign.
  • Your tone of engagement should be constructive and delivered with high EQ (emotional quotient or emotional intelligence).
  • Assess whether you are the right messenger. (Do you have the right reputation? Do you have the necessary communication and interpersonal skills?)
  1. Create and Disseminate Multimedia Content

We all use different mediums to access information. Some prefer social media, others prefer traditional media (television and newspapers).

Policymakers interact with a lot of information on a daily basis, which can lead to information overload. It is important to conduct a quick study of a policymaker’s most preferred medium for accessing information.

When communicating with politicians, a good practice is to NOT add too many technical details to content—they do not require that depth of data. They are more interested in an overview of the issue, the number of people affected, and preferred solutions.

Social media is a key tool for building awareness and credibility on issues like climate change and harmful traditional practices. When integrated into health communication campaigns and activities, social media encourages participation, conversation, and community—all of which can help spread messages, influence decision-making, and promote behavioral change. It also helps to reach people when, izay, and how it is convenient for them, which improves the viability of content and might influence satisfaction and trust in the messages delivered.

Learn how to use multimedia to push for change with this excellent toolkit developed by the Population Reference Bureau. There’s also this short course from the Global Health Learning Center that introduces the fundamentals of PHE.

Mubarak Idris

Digital Campaigns Manager, Bridge Connect Africa Initiative

Mubarak Idris is the digital campaigns manager for Bridge Connect Africa Initiative (BCAI) where he builds user-interactive content and utilizes digital media as a tool to promote policy advocacy on population, FAHASALAMANA, and environment in Africa. He is a member of the Advocacy and Accountability sub-committee for the International Conference on Family Planning 2022, a ONE Champion, a fellow of the Community Engagement Exchange Program by the U.S. State Department, and a member of the European Union Youth Sounding Board. He has worked on the Policy, Advocacy and Communication Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health (PACE) project for four years, using evidence-driven multimedia tools for policy communication and advocacy.

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