By Joaquin M. Sendolo and Tina Mehnpaine
The challenge of getting facts to substantiate advocacy for change or fostering an agenda remains a major challenge for a lot of groups, individuals and even the media. Many a time works of advocates and media practitioners face public criticisms for lacking genuine information that will support their advocacy due to failure to research or providing scanty and outdated information that have no relevance to recent reality.
On this note, the lead facilitator of the non-governmental organization, Zion Foundation International training workshop for civil societies and advocacy groups, Matthew S. Karley, II has attributed the shortcomings of most groups to achieve their advocacy goals to failure to make research and fact check information that will convincingly drive society to the desired changes that are needed.
“Research and fact-checking are very essential to advocacy because they convince people how true your advocacy is,” said Karley.
According to Karley, many advocacy groups are not either educated well in research or just do not have the patience, and the fact that Research is not consider a specific career to learn in Liberian universities is contributing to the low attention paid to this vital academic obligation.
“Years back we held placards with different messages to advocate, but today, we need to research to get proper information about an issue and tell the public to convince them about what we are saying, and then holding placards after a period of talking the issues with facts will be the last thing to do,” said the young facilitator.
In referencing information, the facilitator discouraged the idea of making reference to Liberia’s war that ended more than 15 years ago, noting that using belated information brings fatigue in readers and hearers. Always use information between one and five years; I mean recent information from credible sources speaking on the issue you are advocating about,” Karley added.
Additionally, the facilitator urged advocates to avoid moonlighting in advocacy where they will lose focus of a specific issue and roam from one point to the other advocating for different issues.
“The public will not take you seriously if you are all over advocating for different things at the same time. You will see some groups advocating against SGBV today, tomorrow will be climate change, another day forest, the other day women’s right and so forth because they see donor’s money. This makes people lose focus of your advocacy because they will conclude that all is done to attract donor funding,” said Karley.
The goal of the January 30 workshop held at the African Methodist Episcopal University campus was to strengthen the capacities of advocacy groups to build synergies with other civil society organizations in advocating on sexual gender based violence. It also seeks to provide basic skills in Gender Mainstreaming to enable the groups take an effective advocacy approach.
Deddeh Azango, National Coordinator, ZFI, said in order to defeat rape and SGBV that have overwhelmed the Liberian society, CSOs must work collectively to engage both genders, and that it was from this backdrop her institution saw the need to have a one day training for activists and advocates to have a wider understanding in violence perpetrated against women and girls in society.
“We organized this workshop so we can all join the fight against SGBV in our respective communities and workplaces because SGBV is everywhere in the country. We, therefore, thought it wise to do this Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop to educate people to spread the messages collectively because there is strength in unity”. Deddeh added.
According to her, they invited two representatives of 25 CSOs from each organization. “My expectation is that with the knowledge gained here today, participants will be able to go out into their respective communities to contribute to fight against SGBV.”
Janet Ricks, Executive Director of Potential Leaders for Sustainable Future (PLSF) said the training and provided her the opportunity to have advanced knowledge in advocacy work, especially when it comes to preparing messages, research and programming skills. “The reason why we often advocate and it doesn’t achieve its purpose and goal is because of our messages,” Janet said.
She said research is very important for CSOs because donors rely on data collected to make informed decisions before sending their money for any project to be implemented.
“This training is an eye opener and opportunity that we as CSOs have missed over the time. So, as Director for my organization, I am going to organize this same workshop for my team,” Janet said.
The training also provided participants the opportunity to learn how to strategize and frame messages that will be understandable to the audience, and by that, they were strongly advised to make messages simple, concise and up to the point.B