Deep advocacy across borders
On a sunny February morning in Muranga County, Kenya, groups of volunteer advocates met for the first time. Advocates from the U.S. and Kenya were visiting the wards of Gaichanjiru and Ithiru to exchange their experiences working towards the end of poverty. They all had in common their participation in deep advocacy, the RESULTS model of building relationships with government officials and local media to advance health, education, and economic opportunity.
In both wards, there were warm handshakes all around, and Muranga advocates led songs of welcome.
A Ngurweni Secondary School, both groups stood in a circle together under the shade of an enormous tree.
The leader of the Gaichanjiru group, Irene Njoka (center above), shared how they had advocated vigorously to the local government for a water tank for the school. The group held meetings with local officials, wrote letters, and published media pieces. Irene showed examples of her group’s letters to Sarah Bordgstede from St, Louis, MO (left below) and Rachel Azanleko from Madison, WI (right below).
Their efforts paid off, and piped water was supplied to the area as well as a tank just outside the school for use by the students.
At Kandara CDF Hall, James Mwangi (Grassroots Coordinator for KANCO, a RESULTS partner) facilitated a spirited discussion among the volunteers. “Who in this room is an advocate?” James asked. “I am!” everyone shouted in reply. “Who is getting paid for their advocacy?” “Not me!” the crowd answered with laughter.
James told the visitors that the Ithiru group meets once or twice per month to identify an advocacy issue, develop an advocacy plan, and set a time frame. The group passed around examples of letters that they sent to government officials, and shared stories about the power of persistence.
As the sunshine of the morning turned to the heat of early afternoon, the advocates shared what approaches have worked for them throughout years of activism. The visiting group was gifted with small handcrafted items to remember the day. Handshakes turned to hugs as the groups said their goodbyes.
“It is not always easy to get the results we want,” James later explained. “But letters and meetings with officials provide direct feedback on how the welfare of our communities can be improved. These methods are essential, because elected leaders tend to forget their role in the government.”
Images by Sarah Borgstede, Micha Chishti, and Deborah Lash (RESULTS)