As we went around the room introducing ourselves during the first day of a workshop in Narok, Kenya, each participant stated their name and hometown but then shook their heads to confess they had no advocacy or policy communication experience. They seemed intimidated by the topic. However, when the question was reframed as, “What have you done to make your community better?” the participants had confident and diverse answers.1

I organized a bike service on our university campus that helps students get around … we also distribute sanitary towels to needy girls so they don’t miss school.

I lead the Kenya Maa Student’s Association; we work to reduce teenage pregnancy rates in Narok County, which are currently as high as 40 percent.

I mentor girls in my community and try to change harmful community practices such as female genital mutilation.

I am a secondary school teacher. I also mentor girls and ensure our school provides accurate information about reproductive health to young people.

What an inspiring group! Clearly, they didn’t yet see themselves as advocates, but they were in the right place. Over the next four days, the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) Kenya and Population Reference Bureau (PRB) helped youth build their policy communication skills and advocacy capacity. Using the PACE Policy Communication Toolkit, including a new Youth Leaders Module, WRA Kenya and PRB empowered these participants to take their community service efforts and passion for improving the health and well-being of young people to the next level.

A Module Developed for Youth, With Youth Input

Workshop participant, Marison Lemukut, presents her advocacy strategy ideas confidently during an activity. Photo credit: Shelley Megquier.

The new Youth Leaders Module is tailored for young people, crafted with input from youth authors and reviewers. It covers topics such as how to be an effective youth leader, entry points for youth-led advocacy, youth-led coalition building, and more.

During our field test of the module in Narok, we found that its sessions complement the Toolkit’s existing content. This new material can be combined with foundational sessions such as Understanding the Policy Landscape (RP1L), Strategic Communication I and II (SC1L; SC5L), and Using Data for Advocacy (SC3L) to create a comprehensive introduction to policy communication for youth leaders. Youth leaders and other participants emerge from policy communication training more knowledgeable, confident, and effective change agents―with an appreciation for the importance of evidence-based advocacy.

Now I have the confidence to be an advocate.

Solomon Leng’eny, after participating in a WRA Kenya and PRB hosted workshop for youth leaders in Narok, Kenya

The changes we observed in the Narok participants were remarkable: Youth became more engaged as the training advanced. By the second day, those who were uncomfortable working with evidence at the start of the workshop dug enthusiastically into a data sheet to find numbers to support their advocacy for improved health and well-being in Narok. During a roleplay activity at the end of the workshop, a soft-spoken young woman took charge of a mock coalition meeting to share her advocacy strategy ideas with passion and confidence.

Ready-to-Use Tools for Evidence-Based Advocacy

The Youth Leaders Module is part of the wider Policy Communication Toolkit. Its activities, exercises, and supplementary materials provide facilitators with a set of ready-to-use tools to engage youth and strengthen their ability to influence policymakers and other decisionmakers through evidence-based advocacy. Advocates of all ages, however, can benefit from the resources within the Toolkit—and in multiple languages. With generous support from The World Bank, the original eight Toolkit modules are available in English and French and planned for release in Spanish.

References

  1. All answers paraphrased.