Modern-Day Advocacy: It’s Trendy and It’s Necessary

A young teenager started screaming in pain. It came out of nowhere. She drew in breaths with much difficulty and her breathing became harder. She began to have all-round body pain which was inexplicable, at first. This got her extremely dizzy and really weak. Then came a tinge a jaundice in her previously bright eyes.

The condition was reoccurring. Her family had sought medical advice but not everyone can afford a doctor every time for a condition that seems to come and go at will. Plus it gets costly. So out of love, and a desperate need to help her ailing child, a mother sought help from a self-proclaimed “prayer warrior” who advised that the child be bathed with ‘holy water’ at the church camp where the kid was to stay for two weeks. During another painful episode, the child got bathed in the middle of the night, with cold water, made pure and ‘holy’.

What happened next? Did the child get better? Stay anywhere in Africa for a while with your eyes and ears wide open and you would know that the above story is probably true somewhere at some point in time. I totally fabricated this one though because I imagined a sickle-celled individual, in a painful crisis, being bath with cold water, in a scenario like that. Do you know what happens when someone in that condition gets cold water poured all over him or her? I didn’t know before. I know now. Do you?

Why should you even know? Because a child with sickle cell would likely die in that scenario and this is true. Doctors might inform on a condition yet those around the afflicted, those that care but aren’t well-informed, those that don’t know you but affect the situation indirectly, how do they help? How do you get them to help, to care.

The answer: ADVOCACY. It is the simple, public, well-intended support for or recommendation of a cause or an action. You get to choose your pick. I chose one this week, and here’s how, and why. We’ll still stick to the facts. This remains an opinion piece.

 

What really IS Advocacy?

The Ice-Bucket Challenge. Almost everybody heard of it. Most people partook in it. It raised a lot of money and awareness for the cause. The thing is I doubt a huge portion of those that dropped iced cold water on themselves understood why and what they were doing. It got very trendy very fast and I liked that it did. Because it worked for the cause. When Bill Gates does something in the public eye, the International Federation of Dorks, an organisation I believe totally exists, will follow suit. When Kylie Jenner does same, massive mimicry amongst influencers ensues. And it goes on. That is how the Ice Bucket Challenge became so widely popular.

It is actually the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, intended to bring attention to Lou Gehrig’s disease, known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This exercise raised over $155 million. Think of all the good that money did, and is doing.

That public support for the ALS cause, that is advocacy. Advocacy, in your own way, is saying “hey, I myself want to know more about this plight, then I want you to know more about it too, then I want you and I to do something about it together to make it better”. And actually taking a step to do all three.

 

Why is Advocacy important?

Think voting. Think of how powerful your ONE thumb can be when it joins forces with millions of others with similar intentions. That’s why advocacy is important. We all want something different about the world we live in, something a little bit better. Big corporations and governments have powerful effects on real-life situations but so is the public when we join forces. There is nothing more urgent than people uniting with one voice.

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Advocacy can change things faster than waiting on the powers that be to effect that change. Get a voice on an issue that’s important to you. Defend and safeguard the rights of the afflicted in that instance. Have their wishes materially considered in your decision making. And you can become an instrument of real change.

 

The NGO Problem

In the UK I know for a fact that at the least misappropriation of funds or the lack of improper financial procedures and filings, an NGO would be investigated immediately with the findings being published publicly for all to see. Having and running an NGO is not easy. However it is widely accepted that we have an accountability problem with NGO’s here in Ghana, generally speaking.

This is not to discredit the good and the hardworking people fighting for the poor and the needy. I’m just saying easily quantifiable performance indicators and education on impact guidelines would help the situation a lot more. My aim is not to be unnecessarily loquacious, for some problems need not be overstated. I feel solutions should be explored more until some stick. And I just gave my two cents on the matter. I’ll give it again in much clearer words, to whom it may concern:

HELP the NGO’s over here by EDUCATING them on WHAT TO DO to have a bigger IMPACT the RIGHT WAY, since many (and I) can claim massive ignorance on subject matters we genuinely care about. Then investigate and take appropriate action on those that fail to follow set guidelines, both existing and forthcoming.

Let us stick to the facts. This is still an opinion piece.

Side Note: I was going to write about Gold this week. The World Bank reports that Ghana is now Africa’s top producer of Gold. That’s this year. Getting to the end of last year the government came under pressure to investigate a massive $7 billion worth of gold that has been unaccounted for yet shipped out of the country within the last few years. So add a few headlines I’ve read on Ghana’s gold within the last 12 to 24 months and it would have been a piece purely opinion based, exploring the why’s to the what’s and the how come’s.

 

So what brought this Advocacy thing up?

The story goes (a real story this time) that the forever gracious Nancy Nwadire reached out one day and we had one of those creatively fulfilling convos that make you go “ok that was nice”. She’s really awesome, you know, founder of leading luxury fashion brand ICONIC INVANITY. She put me in touch with another gift to Africa, and I got inspired. Then I got to thinking again. My hope is that this piece inspires you to do some good as well wherever you are, whenever you can, in your own way. For I think I just might have caught the advocacy bug.

A few of my close friends have sickle-cell anaemia. So I have at one point or many times witnessed what they go through to live a normal life. Anne Welsh is the former chairperson of the UK Sickle Cell Society, a Nigerian author, with a successful career in investment banking and philanthropy, diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia at age four, I could go on. One of Anne Welsh’s focus amongst many is to partner with major pharmaceutical companies and world health organisations for the purpose of providing affordable drugs to those she calls “sickle cell warriors” in Africa and to also bring about better healthcare systems and solutions that will allow these warriors to live a reasonably painless life… and then she named her new memoir ‘Pain-Less’. Get it? Pain… Less? You get it.

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And so what?!

…the three words that our society can use to discredit even the most marvellous of achievements. NDC, NPP, anybody can do something big and marvellous, and the rebuttal always seem to start with a resounding “and so what”. And so it happened and it’s great! Sarkodie did and got everything that no Ghanaian artist had formerly thought possible, then critics started with “and so?”. But I digress and yes I’m from Tema, born and bred.

At some point, we all accidentally drop something down the sink. If it’s small, it probably won’t matter because the water will run and flush it through. But imagine dropping something bigger, like a watch, and then your car keys, then another, and then another. After a while your pipes will get clocked and you’re going to have issues.

That’s what a sickle cell crisis is like! And it’s painful and I’ve witnessed my good friends go through it many times.

Red blood cells are round and flow easily through the vessels. But when you have sickle cell anaemia, some cells are curved and hard and shaped like a sickle, shaped like a crescent. They get stuck in small blood vessels all over the body and that is when you have a sickle cell crisis. To get this potentially deadly condition on the regular takes a toll on personal and professional life. So to see someone have that, get married, have two kids, rise to the top of her peers and profession, and then champion the cause across the globe, is my answer to any “and so what”.

 

What do you do next?

Be inspired! Do anything for the good the afflicted, any afflicted. Just mean it and keep the fire burning. Donations are becoming trendy now so that’s a good sign. But that’s a subset of advocacy. With advocacy, you have to, in a sense, BE a part of the afflicted group. Please don’t go homeless to help the homeless. I mean, make their concerns your concerns. Their daily worry your mission to suppress. And it shouldn’t be a one-time thing, neither should it be forced.

If you want to make a difference, odds are someone somewhere within your reach also want the same thing. For what shall it profit a man, to have a column in the Business & Financial Times, and not speak on something that inspires him in hopes of inspiring others.

 

Hit me up on social media to discuss and let’s keep the conversation going!

 

These are all facts. And this has been an opinion piece.

 

 

The Writer is the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, an International Trade Support and Business Development Solutions Provider. He works with a team of motivated professionals, governed by industry experts with experience spanning over a century. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.   Facebook:@thisisthemax   Instagram:@thisisthemax   Twitter:@thisisthemax   LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax   Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com   Email: maxwell@maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com   Mobile: 0249993319

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