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From: Community-led advocacy - Footsteps 118

Tools and ideas that communities can use to challenge injustice and change difficult situations

For many years, Manzo Dembele has been supporting organisations and communities to advocate for change in Mali. Here he reflects on his experiences. 

What does advocacy mean to you?

‘Different organisations, groups and individuals approach advocacy in different ways. But the end goal is the same: to bring about positive change by influencing decision-makers, laws, public policies, norms and practices.

‘Although I have worked with large networks and coalitions, it is particularly rewarding when communities gain the confidence to advocate for themselves.’

‘... the end goal is the same: to bring about positive change by influencing decision-makers, laws, public policies, norms and practices’

What have you learnt? 

‘I have learnt that advocacy needs to constantly adapt to changing environments and situations. This includes adapting to, and making the most of, changes in technology such as internet connectivity and smartphones.

‘Though challenging, and with some risks, these new technologies represent opportunities to communicate, network and collaborate more quickly with larger numbers of people.

‘I have also learnt not to prioritise my own agenda when working with others in advocacy. It is very important to listen to, and appreciate, different ideas and views.’ 

What are you working on at the moment?

‘I am supporting a local organisation to advocate for a reduction in the amount of pollution caused by factories in the Ségou region of Mali. The organisation has formed a committee including women, youth, faith leaders and representatives from the local authority. Together, they are leading the way in calling for change in the area.

‘I am also working with leaders from different faiths on a peacebuilding programme. While working with them and listening to their conversations, I have realised again that advocacy is often about compromise, and it can take a long time to reach agreement. But it is always worth persevering!’

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