by Tom Seward
Just after I finished writing last week’s blog, I headed down to Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi for the weekend. It’s a tranquil and calm place, a perfect spot to unwind by day. At night there are a load of fun bars and places to get great food. The Chambo (fish from the lake) was a particular highlight.
After a weekend of relaxing and exploring the lake, I returned to Lilongwe. This week most of my work with GOAL centred around youth advocacy. In December last year, GOAL, in partnership with Population Reference Bureau, hosted a Youth Advocacy Training Conference that lasted three days. It brought together ten young people aged between 18 and 29 from six African countries who had been engaged in some sort of local advocacy. The training centred around providing these youths with the technical skills and strategic knowledge that would boost the effectiveness and efficiency of their advocacy agendas. At the end of the training, the youths set about producing their individual, specific Advocacy Plans, with advice from PRB and GOAL staff. The participants have been further developing their plans, checking in with GOAL and PRB and commencing their advocacy, with assistance and advice being provided by the project over the next few months.
Throughout the process I was blown away by the motivation, dedication and passion that all the young people had not just for their own causes, but for progress across all of the issues that plague so many developing nations. The focus areas varied from conservation and the environment to waste management and sexual and reproductive health. Indeed, perhaps what was most impressive was hearing about the reasons so many decided to become involved in advocacy, overcoming huge personal obstacles and devoting their time and effort to ensuring those following them would have an easier path.
The enthusiasm for debate and involvement during the training was also great to see. The language used in the technical side of advocacy can be a bit impenetrable, I certainly had a fair few head-scratcher moments, but to see the youths persevere with it and incorporate it into their plans was very cool.
I have been assisting GOAL in their project to involve some of these young people in a Global Citizenship Project that would see them link up with a number of young Irish youth advocates. The project focuses on the development of an educational resource that supports learning around how to be an effective global citizen by connecting global and local issues connected to climate change and migration. It is a hugely exciting project and I am really pleased to be part of a process linking two groups of extraordinary young people over issues that affect us no matter where you are in the world.