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Training for activists

Community activists can be a great boost to a campaign, particularly those campaigns that seek to mobilize large groups of people (and create a ‘ripple effect’ in terms of increasing public awareness). Training for community activists (who are often volunteers) is a critical activity to include in the strategic planning and implementation of a campaign. It ensures that their skills, knowledge and enthusiasm are best harnessed, cements their understanding of the campaign cause and chief goals, and reinforces their adherence to key principles and messaging of the campaign. Training sessions can be combined with an activists’ kit to make sure all campaigners use a common reference. See also Do’s and don’ts of managing volunteers.

Effective training for campaigning to end violence against women and girls…

  • Uses subjects of concern to the learners and their own experience as a starting point integrate findings from the community assessment, or integrate the assessment into the training.
  • Poses questions and problems, involving people’s thoughts, emotions and actions in a variety of activities.
  • Is highly participatory and democratic, encouraging all participants to learn and teach  others.
  • Examines unequal power relations between women and men and is sensitive to these inequalities, e.g. by making it easier for female participants to speak if they seem hesitant.
  • Gets evaluated regularly by the learners and the trainers. Follow-up training sessions may be necessary to test the understanding of key concepts and reinforce messaging.

Resources:

Summary of Communicating Change: Learning from Women’s Rights Activists’ Campaigns for Legal and Policy Change (Pittman et al., 2009). Available in English.

A guide for community campaigning on VAW in East Africa from Raising Voices describes the first steps of community assessment and awareness-raising in great detail. 

Activists Kits

Kits for activists can enhance activists’ commitment to the cause, and promote a coherent message. They can take the form of a booklet with detailed instructions, such as the European Women’s Lobby Lobbying Kit ‘Towards a Strong European Convention on All Forms of Male Violence against Women (2010), or be a comprehensive series of guides such as Amnesty International’s Activists’ Toolkit that is part of its Stop Violence Against Women Campaign.

Kits can also be a set of print media (posters, flash cards, booklets) and other materials in a folder or a specially designed bag. Design the kit so that it appeals to its main users.

The "change maker" kit for WE CAN activists in South Asia includes a distinctive bag filled with campaign booklets and mini-posters that can be used in small group discussions. Local campaign alliances contribute T-shirts and caps with the campaign logo to complement the kit. See the campaign’s tools for change makers

When to work with activists’ kits?

  • If the campaign has a relatively long time-frame (of multiple years) and/or mobilization of large numbers of activists is part of its strategy.
  • If sufficient resources are available, including time to develop and pre-test the kit, and then produce and distribute it in sufficient numbers. In a campaign for behaviour-change, activists’ kits targeting a non-specialized audience need to be developed and pre-tested with a broad range of potential activists. Depending on context and resources, that process could take up to a year or more.

Examples for high quality Activists’ Kits:

SASA! is a Kiswahili word meaning “Now”. It is a comprehensive, user-friendly program tool for organizations that aim at mobilizing communities to prevent violence against women and HIV infection. SASA! (by Raising Voices, Uganda) includes practical resources, activities and monitoring and assessment tools for local activism, media and advocacy, communication materials and training that organizations working on violence or HIV/AIDS can use to incorporate these cross-cutting issues into their work. See Raising Voices comprehensive kit for community activists providing guidance for strategies, activities, monitoring and evaluation.

The We Can campaign South Asia, aims to trigger a person-to-person chain reaction of change in attitudes and behaviour on a scale sufficient to generate a mass social movement to end VAW (Aldred, Williams, 2009. We Can: The Story So Far). It focuses on community awareness raising and mobilization through so-called change makers, who work with a set of activist tools (“change maker tools”) that can be downloaded from the campaign website and from the Thoughtshop Foundation which designed them, in English, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu.

In preparation for the 3rd World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (November 2008 in Rio de Janeiro), the organizers created an information kit for children and adolescents planning to participate in the Congress.