Using Social Media for Youth Advocacy

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ hangouts, Flicker are buzzwords across the world. But, how do we use them effectively to reach the youth?

This was the challenge at the Soul City and UNFPA training workshop “Social Media Training Workshop for advocacy on Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV Prevention in Africa” (12 – 17 August) which was facilitated by Frayintermedia.

The workshop, which quickly became known by its hashtag #sm4youth, was supported by UNFPA, Norad and Sida and held at the Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein, South Africa.

Soul City Programme Manager Jenny Button said the workshop was a great success – we had excellent support from funders, delegates worked well together and had great fun, and the training and facilitation by frayintermedia ensured that we fulfilled and even surpassed our objectives.

The training sought to help young activists and youth programme implementers use social media for social and behaviour change communication with both knowledge and skills sessions. These sessions focused on identifying strategic social media platforms as well as developing key messages and related activities to support the implementation of their social media strategies in the various countries.

Almost 70 delegates from across Africa were welcomed by UNFPA OIC regional director Dr Margaret Anyetei before the UNFPA’s Dr Akinyele Dairo outlined the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). Dr Dairo noted that the campaign had been launched in 40 countries in Africa but more needed to be done to ensure its message reached everyone including the youth.

Soul City Institute advocacy manager Savera Kalideen presented various approaches to Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) with a focus on developing messages around sexual reproductive health and HIV. Her session was complemented by Soul City Institute associate Michael Jana who presented the practical steps needed for SBCC with a particular focus on using formative research to understand the target audience and formulate focused messages.

During the course of the week, various social media practitioners took the participants through skills sessions with activities ranging from creating a blog, using Facebook effectively, creating Googlemaps, to producing soundslides.

Facilitators included frayintermedia’s Paula Fray who focused on social media strategy, message development, project implementation and evaluation, Wits University new and social media expert Dinesh Balliah who focused on the social media landscape as well as tools and Award-winning blogger Saaleha Bamjee who helped with social media tools including how to set up blogs and drive traffic to these sites. Various guest lecturers also assisted with specialist skills and mentoring.

Participants will continue to receive mentoring with the implementation of their social media strategy.

The response from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. “I learnt a lot this week and I will be taking this information and these skills and educate my peers so as to strengthening our campaigns,” said a Zimbabwean participant.

“Thank you for creating such a platform and I loved the workshop and I will be more than glad to share my knowledge with colleagues in my country,” said another.

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