Spirited, Expanded Leadership Competitions in 2008
From the lessons of the opening round in 2007, the African Human Rights Leadership Campaign organized and delivered a “second annual” cycle of human rights leadership competitions between March and August, 2008 in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Rather than pit school against school in each country (a format that had led to unfounded accusations of favoritism by losing schools in 2007), we divided the 30 participating students in Accra, Monrovia and Freetown respectively into two 15 person coalition teams. This enhanced the leadership challenge as each group, made up of spectrum of ambitious and aspiring “chiefs” from different schools and youth groups unfamiliar with each other, had to organize itself into a coordinated whole.
90 high school- and college-age students participated over the three countries. The competition required each team to choose a prevalent human rights abuse in its country or community, research the issue in the field, and to create and deliver an effective public awareness campaign to end that abuse.
Collectively in the three participating countries, the teams targeted reaching a minimum of 1,230 of their peers. Yet, in the three-to-four months of production, and working as a purely extracurricular activity, these competitors delivered to almost five times that many, some 5,400 of their fellows through 48 other high schools and youth groups. By this surprising reach and the written testimonials of the thousands touched by the teams’ campaigns, we had struck on a winning pattern of youth community activism, spurred by the format of friendly, even cooperative competition.
From the trial and error of previous years, we structured the 2008 project in three phases:
Phase One, Training, Organization and Planning
The 2008 campaign began with a five week tour through the three countries in March and April, with about ten days in each for the leadership training and organization of the teams, along with concentrated support building with government and civil society leaders.
For the 30 students in each of the capital cities, Monrovia, Freetown and Accra, we conducted a three day series of workshops. Day One was orientation as well as definitions and qualities of leadership. Day Two was project production basics, including purpose, policies and products, team organization and initial project planning. Day Three was continued project planning and targeting as well as instruction on documentation basics (photo and video). We spent substantial time ensuring that all participants understood his/her task as a team member and competitor, the “valuable final product” of each team on the project:
Production and documentation of an excellent human rights awareness campaign that is creating youth, government and civil society support for human rights and human rights education
With each member assigned a distinct role in the execution and documentation of their actions on a standardized team organizing board, the teams selected their respective human rights issues and planned the execution of their campaigns.
Liberia, Team A: religious intolerance
Liberia, Team B: rape and other sexual violence
Sierra Leone, Team A: domestic violence against women
Sierra Leone, Team B: right to education
Ghana, Team A: right to education
Ghana, Team B: child trafficking, child labor
Phase Two, Awareness Campaign Research and Delivery:
The teams then competed across a three-plus month research and delivery period between April and July, 2008. Each team was expected to conduct and document field investigation on their issue, including video interview with community opinion leaders. We also asked each team to deliver as many human rights education presentations to as many high school groups as possible, forming human rights clubs with each. Teams were to engage schools and youth not only in their respective cities – which tend to be insulated from the rest of the country – but in rural areas as well.
The teams substantially exceeded production targets, with some 53 schools and youth groups reached (42 minimum target); 53 human rights groups formed (30 minimum target); and 5,400 people reached through the team’s human rights workshops (1,260 minimum target).
The Ghana teams traveled and investigated their abuse issues in up-country locations. Team A interviewed the local chief and many youth in Kfele, a fishing village, on deprivation of the right to education. Team B went to Kpando, in the Upper Volta Region, engaging young people in an area notorious for child trafficking. The teams in Liberia and Sierra Leone made similar outreaches.
Phase Three, Team Reports, Presentations at Concluding Events:
The 2008 campaign concluded with a month-long tour through the three countries from late-July to late-August. During the week-plus in each capital city, the local teams finalized executive summaries on their issues, rehearsed and then presented those issues in standing room-only events open to fellow students, educators, government officials, community leaders and the press. The events:
Friday, 1 August 2008, City Hall, Monrovia, Liberia
Friday, 8 August 2008, British Council, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Friday, 23 August 2008, British Council, Accra, Ghana
That year’s production thus included the six team executive summaries on the respective human rights abuse issues, two project video statements produced by the Ghanaian teams (on the right to education and child labor, respectively), the voluminous team compilations of their field work in all three countries, including reports on their presentations and over 5,000 written success statements from the students reached, “before” and “after” evaluations from the majority of the student competitors, video interviews of the majority of those competitors at the close of the project, and some 30 video interviews with a host of government and community leaders on the value and prospects of the program.
Each of the three concluding events received significant newsprint, radio and television media coverage, with an overall 17M estimated readership, listenership and viewership total between the three countries.
Pasadena, California, USA