Based on presentation delivered at the Advocacy for Comprehensive Sexuality Education meeting, October 2015, Washington D.C.
Making CSE advocacy relevant to the millennial generation requires not only attention to the conversations young people are having among themselves, it also requires letting young people take the lead in shaping advocacy efforts, and learning from the unique approaches of youth-led advocacy.
World Sexual Health Day is a global volunteer-led initiative undertaken by the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). Since 2010, WAS has marked 4 September as a day for awareness about sexual health, sexuality education and sexual rights. To date activities have been organized in 35 countries.
Stand by Me (standbyme.rnw.org) emerged as an initiative of RNW media, a Dutch organization that uses media as a tool for social change. RNW is focused on young people as the drivers of social change, and works with independent journalists aged 15–30 from around the world, connecting diverse communities within one platform. The campaign focused on creating statements of solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, particularly from countries where LGBT people’s lives are stigmatized and criminalized, such as Uganda, Egypt and Venezuela. The campaign successfully reached more than a million people via social media.
Lessons learned in making campaigns relevant can be gleaned from both these initiatives. Some of their common aspects point to good practice in campaigning that is:
Creative and contextually relevant, resonating with diverse audiences. Youth-focused, and led by young people in a way that is meaningful and not an afterthought or a ‘support’ to the campaign leaders. A collaboration between stakeholders that builds trust and community, engaging hard-to-reach groups and ensuring that marginalized voices are heard. In some ways, social media campaigning can transform traditional ideas about how advocacy should be conducted. In the world of social media, for example, oppositional voices and comments can actually end up supporting the campaigns they intend to attack, instead of detracting from them. This is because negative or oppositional comments on social media can be responded to directly and immediately; they may spark further comments and reactions from young people across the globe who disagree, enabling the message to spread further, faster.
Youth participants devised questions aimed at getting young people thinking and talking about CSE, which were then posted on RNW media’s ‘Love Matters’ platforms in Latin America, India, China, the Arab States and Africa. Questions related to whether young people thought CSE should be strengthened in their countries and what topics CSE should cover in order to be comprehensive and relevant. The posts received hundreds of ‘likes’ and comments within hours, revealing a diversity of viewpoints.
Beyond virtual conversations, World Sexual Health Day campaigning demonstrated successful examples of carrying activism from online to offline engagement. Part of the day’s activities in 2015 included engaging with government officials and agencies on social media to gain their support and endorsement for the campaign. Collaborative events, organized in partnership with government agencies, ensured that the campaign reached a broad supporter base and high-level decision-makers at the same time.
Author: ANTÓN CASTELLANOS USIGLI, THE WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR SEXUAL HEALTH (WAS)