I spent last week in Sierra Leone with 50 incredible gender equality advocates who are fighting the uphill battle to end one of the most despicable forms of gender-based violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting.
Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (also known as FGM/C) is a widespread practice in Sierra Leone: 88% of girls and young women are cut as an initiation into adult society.
This practice is incredibly harmful and unjust, and that is why a coalition of gender equality advocates -- the Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP) -- is working to end FGM/C in Sierra Leone.
In partnership with FAHP, Women Thrive Alliance carried out a four-day advocacy training workshop in May 2017 with advocates from community-based organizations and media outlets to build the skills needed to carry out an effective, impactful advocacy strategy to combat FGM/C in Sierra Leone.
Our goal of the workshop was to help FAHP members strengthen their coalition and build the skills they need to carry out an impactful, engaging advocacy campaign to end FGM/C and achieve SDG5 in Sierra Leone. We brought together 50 youth and adults representing 21 grassroots organizations and four media outlets (print, radio, and electronic). FAHP’s decision to invite media representatives (who are advocates themselves and promote gender equality issues in their journalism) was based on their priority to improve the quality of their advocacy messaging and the visibility of their work.
We used group discussions, role plays, case studies, mapping exercises, songs, and other fun activities to share, practice, and apply new knowledge and skills to participants’ advocacy work. Over the course of the workshop, participants:
- Developed a foundation understanding of sex, gender, intersectional identities and inequalities, feminist ideology and strategies, and local advocacy’s relation to global frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals;
- Analyzed root causes and effects of FGM/C in Sierra Leone
- Created a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-oriented) advocacy objective and determined what actions and resources are needed to reach that objective;
- Mapped stakeholders relevant to FGM/C and identified key relationships to pursue and strengthen;
- Created targeted messages and activities to inform these key stakeholders and turn them into champions;
- Conducted risk analyses and practiced safety and care strategies to ensure a safe, resilient campaign;
- Set coalition-wide 6- and 12-month commitments to achieve key outcomes of the National Strategy;
- Created regional Advocacy Action Plans to carry out the National Strategy; and
- Set fundraising objectives and set-up communications channels to continue coalition-wide advocacy.
100% of participants said that the facilitation and material was of high quality, and they are prepared to use the new knowledge and skill in their advocacy and train others.
Even better, 100% of participants now understand the SDGs and how their organization can play an active role in SDG implementation in their country, compared with only 58% before the workshop. The outcomes of the workshop show us three important things:
- FAHP is a stronger coalition with a unified voice: With deeper relationships, collective goals, and unified messaging, FAHP is better poised to carry out successful advocacy activities, engage stakeholders in a meaningful way, and overcome the challenges they have faced by adopting new advocacy strategies
- FAHP is prepared to participate in the implementation of SDG5: Using the skills and knowledge developed in the workshop, FAHP members can create evidence-based messages and demand an equal role in decision-making on SDG implementation.
- FAHP members are coordinated at the provincial level: Participants from each province created Advocacy Action Plans to carry out their coordinated activities. FAHP members will be better able to build on local expertise, collaborate with one another, connect with stakeholders and decision-makers, share lessons, collectively measure impact, and amplify messages.
Women Thrive will keep connected with participants to support their collective vision and action and provide them access to capacity-building resources, funding opportunities, and visibility.
As part of our Achieve SDG5 initiative, Women Thrive will support FAHP members’ data collection and research on civil society engagement in SDG implementation (though the National SDG Scorecard tool - see the new Sierra Leone Report here!) and will coach FAHP to develop targeted evidence-based messages using the SDGs as an advocacy lens. Women Thrive will amplify their messages and activities to broader audiences on social media, to the international development community, to donors, to the U.S. government, and to global decision-makers at the United Nations.
I’m excited to see what FAHP can do with their new relationships, skills, and confidence. You can read more about this workshop here and stay in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to follow their progress as they work to end FGM/C in Sierra Leone!