Advocates from ten countries spanning East and West Africa came together for the second annual Africa Reproductive Rights Initiative (ARRI) convening in Zanzibar, Tanzania from March 5-8, 2018. This year’s convening focused on tackling complex reproductive rights issues and sharpening communications skills, while providing participants a platform to network and strengthen the regional movement towards the realization of reproductive rights throughout Africa.
During the convening, participants debated the complexities in advancing adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, shared success stories on advocating for abortion in highly restricted settings, and discussed the challenges in being a human rights defender focused on reproductive rights. During an immersive two-day communications workshop, participants crafted communications strategies and messages, learned to more effectively leverage social media to advance law and policy reform, managed a crisis communications scenario, and navigated hostile media interviews. Participants also began conceptualizing how the ARRI network can amplify its impact across the region by creating a common vision for progress, fostering stronger bonds between advocates, and increasing membership and stakeholder diversity.
A highlight of the convening included having participants apply the skills that were shared during the training in mock interviews, during which members played the role of a spokesperson for their organization to practice responding to challenging media inquiries and reinforcing their messaging. Participants then received instant feedback on communications styles and skills from communications professionals, and took home a video of their interview.
As one participant noted, “When you watch other people being interviewed by the media during a crisis, it seems so easy, but after going through it today, I have learnt that I need to be prepared to handle the media. I must also have talking points to guide me.”
ARRI was launched in 2017, as a platform to bring together civil society organizations who are working to advance reproductive rights in specific countries in Africa. ARRI aims to strengthen the reproductive rights movement by creating a forum where members can share experiences, exchange valuable knowledge and skills, and utilize their collective strength at the national, regional, and international levels. In addition to ARRI’s annual meetings, members are invited to participate in webinars, collaborate virtually on the Unite site, participate in other in-person trainings and knowledge exchanges.