Cameroon activists hone skills, build alliances via ‘Advocacy Competition’

Human rights activists in Cameroon have found a new way to improve their effectiveness and build alliances — the “Advocacy Competition”.
From the African Human Rights Media Network.
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Team members from Sourire de Femmes work on their presentation for the Advocacy Competition.

By Courtney Stans

Jean Jacques Dissoke,  advocacy officer of Alternatives-Cameroon, introduces the competition.

The LGBTI advocacy organization Alternatives-Cameroon organized the contest among  organizations advocating for the rights of women, children, drug users, LGBTI people and other vulnerable people. The goal was to encourage the groups to work together and improve their effectiveness. The competition, the first of its kind, was supported by the international organization GIZ, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). It was held from Dec. 6 through 10 in Yaoundé. Organizations in the contest included: the LGBTI advocates Humanity First Cameroon Plus; legal rights advocates Défenseurs Sans Frontières; Evicam; Roche Hopes; TAHBE; the trans advocates Transigeance Féministe; and the women’s advocacy organizations Sourire de Femmes, Association de Lutte Contre les Violences Faites aux Femmes, Horizons Femmes and Association des Femmes Leaders. Alternatives Cameroon organized the competition after noticing that local activist organizations were working hard but not cooperating with each other. During the competition, organizations made presentations on topics assigned to them under the  spotlight of the media, including news cameras, radio, print and television. The topics were:
  • Defense of human rights during the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Access to health for key populations at risk of AIDS; and
  • A simulation of advocacy before the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Health.

A presentation to the Advocacy Competition jury. (Photo courtesy of Canal24)

The contest began with a preliminary phase, then semi-finals, then finals with two organizations going head to head. Judging was by a five-member jury of activists and legal experts, who evaluated the presentations for content and form. Organizations were criticized if they did not present an effective message, a clear budget, or a plan of activities in line with their objectives. In the semi-finals, the assignment was to present strategies to combat vaccine hesitancy in Cameroon, using non-medical language and involving community members. Each team made a Powerpoint presentation and proposed a budget of 5 million CFA francs (about US $8,700).

Team members from Humanity First Cameroon Plus work on their presentation, which won the Advocacy Competition.

Humanity First Cameroon Plus and Défenseurs Sans Frontières (DSF) made it to the finals. Then the challenge for them was to craft a presentation to both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health about how to improve access to health care and reduce violence The LGBTI-friendly jury declared Humanity First Cameroon Plus the winner, but only after advising  both it and DSF that their presentations would be more effective in Cameroon if they were to give more emphasis to the defense of human rights in general rather focusing solely on LGBTI rights. The jury consisted of  LGBTI-friendly attorney Michel Togué; Julie Ngando of Alternatives Cameroon; two magistrates; and Dr. Fred Mbedi, law professor and president of the jury. Two women’s rights organizations won additional prizes — Femmes Leaders for best community involvement and Sourire de Femmes for best advocacy. Jean Jacques Dissoke,  advocacy officer of Alternatives-Cameroon and coordinator of the competition, said the goal of the project was to foster collaboration among human rights organizations. He urged those who supported it, including its financial partners, to continue such support in the future and extend it to regional and international advocacy competitions. The author of this article, Courtney Stans, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].

Logos of organizations that took part in the Advocacy Competition.