On Saturday the 13th of October 2018, three of our Resident Assistants had the opportunity to attend an Advocacy and Communications training workshop on Human Trafficking and Prostitution in Ireland organised by YWCA Ireland and Tearfund Ireland and hosted by YWCA Coolnagreina.
One of our RA's, Evita Volginaite reflects on the day:
The workshop was completely sold out and packed when we arrived despite the rainy weather. We were glad to see such a diverse group of people from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Most of the people attending the workshop were already working with some charity and wanted further training in this specific field, others were college students just wanting to know more information and ways that they could get involved in advocacy in Ireland. Needless to say, the workshop was applicable to everyone who was there and we all learnt something new.
The morning kicked off with an address from Ally McGeever, the Young Women's Engagement and Development Officer of YWCA Ireland who spoke about the safe space policy of YWCA Ireland and reiterated that everyone's opinions are valued and respected here and we shouldn't be afraid to ask any questions. Ally then introduced the first speaker, Sarah Benson the CEO of Ruhama. Sarah took an unconventional approach to her talk and had a Q&A session before she spoke to make sure she would cover all our questions in her talk. She went on to explain what Ruhama is and what they do. Ruhama is a voluntary organisation in Ireland who work to support women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. If you would like to read more information about their work their website is: https://www.ruhama.ie/
Sarah gave us a brief introduction into the laws both in Ireland and internationally regarding the laws around prostitution. She also showed us some demographics of where the women who are being trafficked into Ireland are coming from and why. She shared about the present focus of the work of Ruhama and how we can help out.
The next session was called "Real Women/Real Stories" where 3 women shared about the advocacy work they do in Ireland and abroad with their organisations and some of the ways we can partner with them. Hearing their personal stories on how they are fighting for injustices worldwide gave me hope and motivation to do something, anything, to help others who don't have the same opportunities as me or who are not in a position where they can freely speak out for themselves.
After a quick coffee break and interesting chats with the other attendees, we moved on to the Advocacy Training session with Tearfund Ireland led by Gemma Kelly. What really struck me from her talk was when she put up the bible verse that said "..speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.." (Proverbs 31: 8-9). God cares for people and wants us to care for them too especially the ones who are most vulnerable. Gemma spoke about the meaning of advocacy and how a lot of people use the word casually and don't always know what it means. She gave us some different definitions but her point was that advocacy is looking at the root causes of problems and actively working towards finding solutions. She then went on to talk about the "Sphere of Influence" we all have and we had to break into groups and talk about our own sphere of people we know and who we could influence from friends and family, the people we work with, social media, politicians and after a few quick steps and contacts we could reach the bigger organisations like the United Nations. She made it sound possible for anyone to make a big impact through a few steps. I found this so encouraging and uplifting. Change is possible and it is not as difficult to achieve as we make it seem in our minds.
Gemma went on to give us the steps in advocacy and focused on research in particular. To advocate for any change you need to know your audience, your opponents, your facts and the more you know about what you are fighting for the better.
Our next speaker was Ruth Garvey-Williams who is the editor of Vox magazine. She shared about communication and what makes a good communicator. She had put up different headings of different types of communication and made everyone participating walk around the room and tick the headings appropriate to them. I really enjoyed this exercise because I always thought I wasn't a very good communicator since I "strongly dislike" public speaking of any kind and get so nervous any time I have to make a speech or give an opinion out loud, but walking around the room I realized there were SO many different ways I could communicate be it through writing, singing, taking a photo, making a video, drawing, sending emails, talking one-on-one with somebody or expressive dancing (I can't do that either but I liked having the option there).
After all that training and thinking we were so delighted to have lunch. The food at Coolnagreina never disappoints. After lunch we were able to spend some time just reflecting on what we had learnt so far and how it could be applied to our lives and what we do. There were stations around the venue that we could go to to reflect in ways that suited us, some people just chatted, some walked around and the artsy people crowded the art room to create some reflective art pieces. I loved having the opportunity to paint in the middle of a busy day, it was something different but it definitely made me slow down and think about all the things I heard in the morning and how I could help make a difference for other people.
The afternoon session was all about planning action. We used the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time focused. We came up with 3 plans for advocacy each (both personal and communal) that we could break into small achievable steps. We then shared those with everyone else and discussed them further. By the time the workshop was finished we had 150 plans for action! It was a truly productive and informative day and I am really looking forward to the next workshop that YWCA Ireland will organize.