Friday, 4 July 2014

The Activisit in Me

By Nana Ama Addae-Boahene, 1st year MDP student

Issues about water and sanitation in First Nation communities are worsening and becoming very expensive to fix. For my field placement this summer, I have been working with the Economic Cluster of the Water Rights Research Consortium to learn about advocacy in general and develop a potential advocacy strategy First Nation communities can use to campaign for clean water and sanitation in their communities.

To understand indigenous rights campaign issues in Canada, I was lucky enough to spend an amazing three days with Amnesty International Canada, a leading advocacy organisation in the world located in Ottawa. I was again fortunate enough to shadow Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples at Amnesty and learn from him the appropriate advocacy techniques I can use to develop my own strategies.

Door to hostel room
My trip had an perfect start when I booked a room to stay at the popular Jailhouse Hostel located in Ottawa. A real jailhouse converted into a hostel. The weird notion of spending three nights in a jail cell created the perfect buzz and excitement I needed for this trip.

I had a wonderful conversation and learning opportunity with Craig who explained to me where indigenous rights issues stand right now in Canada and how we can better push these issues to the forefront of public discussions. I also had the pleasure to attend a Symposium on the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples organised by the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. I had the honour of listening to leading human rights experts in Canada on various panel discussions.

I took part in the “Our dreams matter” campaign in honour of Shannen’s Dream an inspiring teenager who stood up for the rights to equal funding for schools both on and off reserves. It was emotional listening to non-aboriginal children campaigning for schools on reserve. This campaign became a model for development of my proposed strategy since it has been described as one of the most successful campaign in Canada.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Sylvia Smith a member of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement of Canada. We had a very candid conversation about the state of indigenous rights campaigns in Canada and also provided me with some wonderful pointers I could use in the development of my campaign strategy.

I was invited to sit in the campaigns meeting at Amnesty International and had the privilege to be privy to certain campaigns there were involved in around the world. I learnt about the various preparations that go into the roll out of campaigns by a huge organisation as Amnesty International. This was followed by a quick tutorial into how to run a successful social media page.

I had a wonderful time in Ottawa despite the rains. And I was reaffirmed in my belief that the work of the activist is never done

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