Show Them the Money: The Case for Funding Youth Advocates
With support from Women Deliver Small Grants, Young Leaders are advocating for change in their communities on a range of issues, from sexual and reproductive health and rights to climate justice.
For years, young people have been at the forefront of global movements for social change, leveraging their lived experiences and unique perspectives to drive bold action on the most pressing issues of our time. When they are supported with funding, youth advocates have the potential to challenge harmful norms, push for institutional and legislative reforms, and transform their communities. Yet young people and youth-led organizations are still chronically under-resourced. In interviews with Women Deliver Young Leaders and Young Leader Alumni, youth advocates stated that their biggest needs are financial resources, followed by mentorship and coaching.
Women Deliver aims to meet these needs through its Small Grants Program, which provides six-month grants worth USD 5,000 to Young Leaders working on gender equality advocacy projects. Each grant is accompanied by mentorship and coaching from Women Deliver staff and Regional Consultants, who help Young Leaders transform their ideas into concrete policy action. Since 2010, Young Leaders have received 213 Small Grants from Women Deliver, totaling over USD 1,000,000.
In the last completed round of the Small Grants Program, 16 Young Leaders from the Class of 2020 were supported with Small Grants to push the needle on issues ranging from climate justice to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Some of their stories are highlighted below, reinforcing how with proper funding and resources, young people can make a truly powerful impact on their communities:
1. Amr Mohamed Hassan Ramadan of Egypt (he/him) created an educational program called the Climate Leaders Hub to address climate change in Egypt. The program selected 50 young people to participate in an academic training that resulted in twelve campaigns addressing the immediate dangers caused by climate change in Egypt and around the world. In total, these campaigns reached over 360,000 people online and promoted solutions to decrease the use of single-use plastics and products. Additionally, the Climate Leaders Hub hosted an eco-friendly conference attended by parliamentarian representatives, government officials, social media influencers, climate activists, and women’s rights activists. The conference resulted in a joint statement on the intersections between climate change and gender, which was presented to Egyptian decision-makers and leaders who will attend COP27.
2. Damilola Babatunde of Nigeria (he/him) sought to achieve widespread community support to effectively implement the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Law) in Oyo State, Nigeria. Through his project, called Track VAPP Oyo, he educated over 1,000,000 people on the VAPP Law through social media campaigns, radio programing, and media articles. He also met with lawmakers, including the Honorable Olawunmi Oladeji, to motivate them to contribute to the effective implementation of the VAPP Law, as well as the office of the Attorney General/Commissioner of Justice of Oyo State, securing a commitment from the office to create and maintain a registry for convicted sex offenders to expedite the processing of cases of violence against women and girls and include people living with disabilities. Additionally, Damilola trained 20 gender advocates on how to implement the VAPP Law and advocated for the elimination of violence against girls and women.
3. Imane Lakbachi of Morocco (she/her) founded Concealed Narratives to increase awareness and understanding of SRHR and gender issues among adolescents and young people. With support from a Women Deliver Small Grant and other funding sources, Imane developed six educational advocacy tools and resource guides, six in-person advocacy trainings and workshops, 12 virtual trainings, and 16 events with decision-makers, partners, and community members. She also distributed 100 dignity kits and 100 prevention guides on SRHR, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and gender-based violence (GBV) to homeless girls and women in Casablanca. These activities trained over 600 young people and the guides were downloaded over 340 times. Through social media campaigns, over 7,000 people learned about gender equality, while capacity building and empowerment opportunities reached over 5,500 people.
4. Lilian Sospeter of Tanzania (she/her) hosted two intergenerational dialogue sessions, titled “Parents Engage,” to provide accurate information and youth-friendly services to young people with the goal of changing community norms and attitudes around adolescent SRHR. These dialogues trained parents on how to discuss SRHR with their children and healthcare providers on how to provide youth-friendly services. Additionally, Lilian met with members of the Temeke district municipal council government and secured 10 commitments to make laws that would continue to engage parents in SRHR matters.
5. Manka’ah Mafor Awasom Fru of Cameroon (she/her) worked to promote and protect the SRHR of over 70 incarcerated women in the Buea Central Prison, partnering with prison administrators to improve the prison health system. As a result of her advocacy, the Chief Superintendent hosted a capacity building training for over 10 medical personnel in the prison, addressing the prisoners’ physical and mental health needs. Additionally, through Manka’ah’s advocacy campaigns, signed petitions were presented to the Ministry of Health and Territorial Administration, outlining the need for adequate policies that protect the health needs of incarcerated women. Manka’ah also garnered the backing of the Director of Prison Administration in the Southwest Region of Cameroon, the head of the only penitentiary administration school in Central Africa, who will recommend that the ministry carve out a dedicated budget to address the medical issues of incarcerated women.
“This project has been life changing for me and the organization in exposing us to a problem area that is general overlooked in the advocacy and civil society sphere in Cameroon. It motivates us to drive in this direction until the health rights of female prisoners in Cameroon gets the priority it deserves. Feedback from female prisoners of Buea Central prison include rave reviews and made us understand that the significance of this project goes beyond protecting the health rights of women in prison because in so doing the first step towards healing and rehabilitation is provided for the prisoners to be in a good mental and physical state upon return to society… Collaborating with international organizations like Women Deliver gives hope to the African youth in that bureaucratic politics, corruption and poor governance can be by passed and can’t be a hindrance when collaborating with reliable international and national stakeholders that share similar interests In our developmental goals.”
— Manka’ah Mafor Awasom Fru, Women Deliver Young Leader
6. Inviolah Nambi of Uganda (she/her) advocated for strengthening child labor inspection and monitoring in Uganda in order to increase the protection of children’s rights. Inviolah educated stakeholders on national child labor laws, the causes and effects of child labor, and possible solutions. As a result, the Child Protection Committee committed to referring child labor victims to support services, increasing inspections of hazardous workplaces, and increasing community dialogue meetings. The Committee was also made aware of the minimum age for work and spearheaded discussions on eliminating child labor in council meetings, while companies have committed to incorporating child labor laws in their self-assessments. Inviolah’s advocacy also led to the provision of psychosocial support to children in over 10 schools. This project culminated in a documentary which brings to light the impacts of child labor and features calls to action from the government, local leaders, parents, and children.
7. Princess Ndiweni of Zimbabwe (she/her) advocated for safe abortions and worked to encourage civil society organizations and parliamentarians to review the Termination of Pregnancy Act of Zimbabwe, which prohibits abortions. In partnership with other civil society organizations, she hosted a two-day training for adolescent girls and young women to improve their advocacy skills and knowledge of SRHR, bodily autonomy, and gender equality. During the project, Princess joined the National Safe Abortion Coalition of Zimbabwe to draft recommendations and a revised a new version of the Termination of Pregnancy Act. Additionally, she produced a short video on the importance of safe abortion access and submitted a petition with over 200 signatures to the Speaker of Parliament, advocating for the review of the Termination of Pregnancy Act.
8. Puja Yadav of Nepal (she/her) sought to connect marginalized women in Chepang with local government representatives, advocating for a more inclusive policy-making process. This process also helped women better understand their rights and the best ways to reach decision-makers in local government. As a result of Puja’s efforts, the Vice-Chairperson of the Raksirang Rural Municipality committed to creating programs that engage Chepang women and raise awareness of the issues impacting Chepang women within the community. Additionally, the municipality committed to integrating women’s needs into local government plans and programs and collaborating with partner organizations to better support the local government in areas related to capacity building, community sensitization, and mobilization. Finally, Puja authored a policy recommendation as part of the project, resulting in the National Inclusion Commission of Nepal committing to including the recommendations in their policies and programs related to Chepang women.
“Engagement with this project, the team at Bighnaharta Nepal, and all the meetings and engagement with the stakeholders especially at government organizations have empowered me to an extent where I feel I will be capable of driving real change in my community… The knowledge gained through this project will be instrumental in creating a sustainable impact.”
— Women Deliver Young Leader Puja Yadav
9. Ashlee Burnett of Trinidad and Tobago (she/her) advocated for the implementation of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy at the community level in hopes of reducing the rates of teenage pregnancy, sexual violence, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. As a result of Ashlee’s advocacy, the Councilor for Local Government pledged to support further engagement and interventions to advance SRHR in the community. Additionally, through The Right Way project, Ashlee and her team at Feminitt Caribbean led a series of workshops to equip members of Buenos Ayres, a local village, with the tools and resources needed to understand the National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of Trinidad and Tobago, barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and comprehensive sexuality education. Thirty-three participants, including adolescents and their parents, completed the program. Ashlee also contributed significantly to the toolkit developed as part of this work, as well as coordinated with the Ministry of Education, School of Education at the University of the West Indies, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in their efforts to include a module on family violence in Trinidad and Tobago’s health and family life education curriculum.
“From this project, we realized the even greater importance of focusing on policy advocacy and implementation on a community level. Ideally, a programme like The Right Way will be brilliant in a formal school setting but based on our very religious background, there is a major hindrance in achieving this. When we work at a micro level, we can make slow but sure change amongst citizens. This method for us contributes to public buy-in and support when there is a larger advocacy move for a national impact.”
— Women Deliver Young Leader Ashlee Burnett
As these stories show, when young people are properly resourced, they can be formidable agents of change in their communities. Women Deliver is honored to support these young advocates, and thanks its funding partners Organon, Procter & Gamble, Fondation Botnar, and Tides Foundation, who share its commitment to putting financial resources in the hands of young people. Women Deliver calls on other INGOs, donors, the private sector, and others with access to funding to grant resources to young advocates and youth-led organizations: the driving force behind a more equitable world.