ABCD Young workshop in Milan

Participants in the ABCD Young workshop pose in Milan, Italy, November 2015. Photo courtesy of Soleterre.


During the month of November 14th to 24th 2015, I represented JRP in ABCD young, an international advocacy and digital activism for human rights workshop organized by SOLETERRE held in Milan, Italy at Lombardia hotel. The ten day workshop was attended by 24 participants from Uganda, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Honduras, Spain and Italy. It aimed at building the capacity of young people to develop a platform for human rights advocacy. In June 2015, JRP began working with SOLETRRE to jointly implement the project ABCD young; Young people across borders, culture and diversities with over all objectives of improving quality of youth work and to increase synergy and complementarities.

Being the 2nd workshop for the same participants, I was the only new participant and the first facilitator was such very concerned to make me fit in the group. Applying theatre skills to make a new participant join and feel at ease, the other participants were made to seat themselves in a circle and I was asked to find my way in the circle and join them. Belonging to a practical community theatre background, it took me few seconds to get in the circle as I tickled them and they had to break apart. I did that after consulting with the facilitator on whether it was culturally appropriate to tickle since we all came from various cultural backgrounds. I was then formally introduced to the old participants of the ABCD young program.

Over the workshop, four themes were discussed and these include the following.

Theatre of the oppressed: This requires investing in people’s emotion to understand their needs and to create change. Theatre approach is a tool that can be applied when dealing with a group(s) of people that requires appropriate tool to enable then participate. We learned that the oppressed group of people find it hard to get involved and participate in a given course. Therefore theatre is a tool that can make them open up. Theatre is instrumental in building trust, listening skill, responding to distress, building team, creating harmony, perseverance and agreement.

Advocacy: The facilitator guided us to agree that advocacy aims at improving the condition of the marginalized. It requires effective research and analysis, campaigning, networking and alliance and lobbying to achieve an advocacy goal. It is important to understand the stakeholders and to influence institutional program. Those with power and interest needs to be understood and engaged appropriately during advocacy process and the objectives and goal for the advocacy must be clear. To build a campaign, you need to work with others and step such as elaboration of common goal, creation of a process in a team working dimension, defining long term strategy and developing a specific role for every expertise are crucial. An institution like an NGO needs to be credible, transparent, open minded, have specific expertise, creative, have strong value, be willing to share responsibility and have networking capabilities.

The usage of photographs during advocacy: We also learnt that using photographs in advocacy keep the historical context of the event and while using photograph, the story text must be in line with the image. Photograph has the characteristic of universal language and it has immediate impact. Images are powerful in attracting people’s attention, contextualizing the setting and in summarizing the news. To make a project using photograph, you should chose/take photograph that portray human rights gaps, create a theme over the photograph and share to the public to trigger reaction for action to change the state of affair.

Digitalizing advocacy: to digitalize advocacy: The usage of social media such as face book and twitter, televisions, electronic billboards/posters and newsletter are some of the tool that can be employed to reach your target audience to buy their support to an advocacy. When using social media, the goal and objectives of the campaign should be well thought of and the medium chosen should encourage exchange of ideas between the initiator and the target pressure group: opening a face book page can allow elaborate campaign. While posting advocacy issue, sharp remarks/questions that provoke positive reaction to the campaign should be made. For the case of campaign on poor health service in health centers in a given community, question such as, “this is our routine; do you want the same for your child?” could make visitors to that site feel empathy and join the campaign with comment for change.  Use of social media should help you to make comparison with other situation by posting photograph that depicts context of human rights gaps.

As part of the workshop, we also visited a social center for supporting young minds growth and the municipality of Milan. The social center for young minds supports young people of all races in both academic and social development. In our visit to the Municipality of Milan, we interacted with the management of ‘House of Rights’ that is coordinating human rights activism in Milan. In my analysis, gender gap mainstreaming is not as much of a priority issue there as is the case of Uganda.

The workshop was participatory in nature with a lot of group work giving opportunity to share personal experiences and relating the theme to the local context of human rights abuse in our respective countries. While in the workshop, I was imagining the reparation gap for victims of conflict with medical challenges being posted in social media with their voice clips.

The workshop was closed with evaluation themed to content of the workshop, facilities, facilitators’ ability and welfare. With the knowledge gained from the workshop, participants are expected to launch a human rights campaign either as a group or on their own to denounce human rights abuse of a given nature in their respective locality. I would as well integrate knowledge and skills learnt in the workshop in our ongoing program and when developing new activity proposal.

Okwir Isaac Odiya is the team leader for Community Mobilisation at JRP.