As a part of the global Women Deliver 2010 conference, Women Deliver selected 100 Young Leaders from a pool of 6,000 scholarship applicants, with a focus on the 68 priority countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality, to attend a Youth Pre-conference on Sunday, June 6, 2010. The pre-conference focused on advocacy through new media and technology. The goal of the event was to empower and equip young people with the tools, resources, and knowledge to take the advocacy messages of Women Deliver home to their peers. Women Deliver completed e-consultations with the Young Leaders prior to the conference to help shape a mutually stimulating and beneficial agenda, and engaged them in networking and advocacy online through our website, by posting content and asking for their responses to having them write blog posts of their own stories. Working through a Youth Working Group, the members drafted a letter to the conference participants calling for action on young people’s issues around maternal health that was published in the conference program. There was also a “youth desk” at the conference that young scholarship winners staffed and solicited written (to send via postcard) and video (recorded on Flip Cameras) commitments to youth.
The agenda for the youth pre-conference included these activities:
Values Assessment Activity (agree vs. disagree statements): Participants engaged in lively, discursive debates over their stance on a variety statements such as, “Sexuality Education should begin from age 5.”
Defining the term ‘Advocacy’ and Key Message Development: Small groups worked to define an issue, determine its relevance to young people, discuss major challenges to achieving the issue, and develop two advocacy messages to pitch to the group. One message was to be aimed for conference participants and the other towards policymakers/decision makers – looking beyond the conference.
Upcoming Advocacy Efforts: Participants brainstormed plans, activities, and specific opportunities following the conference around the MDGs. Women Deliver created a Youth Advocacy Toolkit for the pre-conference, a document filled with exercises, messages, data, and other content to help the Young Leaders hone their interests and take what they learned at the conference back home and into their work.
Skills building session: Young Leaders learned more about how to communicate messages through different means. Using a “World Café” style workshop, small groups of Young Leaders rotated between five modes/tools of communication: Multimedia (video, music, photography, etc), Blogging and New Media/Web, Community-level organizing (street theatre, spoken word, marches), Radio/TV, and Mobile technology. Each specified tool had different hosts, experts in that medium, who discussed how, when, and why to use these skills/methods.
MDGFive.com: Lisa Russell beta launched her website, MDGFive.com, at the youth pre-conference where participants got to interact with the website and create their own advocacy videos around maternal health.
Another method of engaging youth at Women Deliver was the “Professional Allies” program, taking place between Young Leaders and professional allies throughout the conference. The idea for the Professional Allies Program was to foster a two-way learning process between these Young Leaders and established leaders to promote mutual understanding, facilitate networking, and enable a transfer of knowledge and skills. Those people that participated in the program said that it was of great value to them, and felt it was a two-way mentorship, with each side having much to gain.
We are currently working on follow-up efforts with these dedicated Young Leaders. We are asking that each youth who attended the conference write a report on their experience, outlining what they learned and how they will incorporate it into their own work. We also are asking that they write an op-ed for their local newspaper, radio station, tv channels, or online news outlets, and to follow up with the policymakers from their country that attended Women Deliver. Finally, our goal is for them to stay connected, continuing to be active on our website and Facebook page and creating sustained relationships they began at the Women Deliver 2010 conference.