It’s the first anniversary of the founding of the Occupy Wall Street political movement and unsurprisingly there’s been a lot of coverage about its impact and about activism in general. Campaigns work best when they harness people’s power around a simple and powerful demand, and within the development context ActionAid has always believed that campaigning is crucial if we want to tackle the underlying causes of poverty.
As a public relations specialist I was therefore pleased to hear in a charity workshop run by communications agency NFP Synergy that three quarters of journalists think that campaigning – helping to change laws, policies and practices and bringing important issues to public attention - is a good thing and something charities should do as a matter of course.
So what does that mean for ActionAid supporters, particularly as one third of ActionAid’s child sponsors take campaigning actions as do many in the communities in which we work? Campaigning allows us to reach beyond one child and their community to tackle the injustices that affect many children.
We know that education is key to escaping poverty and the longer children stay in school the better their life chances in later life will be.
So sponsorship and campaigning work hand-in-hand to tackle education issues on the ground by training teachers and establishing schools, but also lobbying governments to provide free education for all and international institutions to improve the policies and practices that keep people poor.
In Kenya ActionAid paid the equivalent of $20 to take two children to parliament to address MPs on the importance of education. As a direct result, the Kenyan parliament agreed that all education should be free and thousands of children entered school for the first time because of it.
A good practical example of why campaigning is important!