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From Activists to Changemakers: Yiaga Africa Equips 30 West African Young Activists

Yiaga Africa has concluded the 2024 cohort of the West Africa Regional Community Organizing Institute (COI), a three-day transformative training from May 17th to 19th that was aimed at enhancing the capacity of young civic activists, advocacy campaigners, and organizers to implement more effective advocacy campaigns while scaling up their potential to make an even greater impact.

The Community Organizing Institute, which is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) brought together 30 mid-career practitioners from ten West African countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Gambia, and Nigeria.

The participants were carefully selected through a vigorous process for the significant contributions they have already made to their societies, whether in the fields of civic activism, journalism, political organizing and advocacy.

In her welcome address Yiaga Africa’s Programmes Director, Cynthia Mbamalu, gave an overview of the institute’s goals for this cohort while stressing the need for participants to approach the training with a mindset geared towards unlearning, learning and relearning how to be effective organizers.

“Given your diverse backgrounds and unique characteristics from various countries, I recommend approaching tasks and discussions through the lens of your cultural, social, and political contexts. This will ensure that the solutions and approaches we develop here are pertinent and effective in achieving the desired outcomes,” she said.

Cynthia Mbamalu, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programmes

Samson Itodo, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa focused his session on building power through leadership, fostering relationships, team-building, and developing effective narratives. He noted that community organizers must understand their role as enablers, raising leaders to drive change.

“Community organizing encompasses taking the responsibility of enabling and influencing people to take collective action. As organizers, the goal is to create a sense of urgency to get people to act under uncertainties,” he noted.

Samson Itodo facilitating a session

There were sessions on how to mobilize one’s personal experiences to build foundational values that will guide the organizers, how to build power through relationships, how to build leadership teams and how to turn resources into actionable strategies for effective change.

A session being facilitated by Ibrahim Faruk, Coordinator, Africa Division

Participants engaged in group tasks and presentations to deepen their understanding of organizing principles, laying a strong foundation for the days ahead. There were also breakout activities that allowed participants to apply these concepts in real-world scenarios, fostering collaboration and peer learning.

A breakout session during the Training

The participants also visited the Discovery Museum, where they undertook a digital tour through Nigeria’s history and which provided a cultural context for their learning experience. 

The participants watching a Virtual Reality movie at the Discovery Museum

Another high point of the training was a session with alumni of the program who shared their success stories and insights, offering inspiration and practical advice to the new cohort. 

COI Alumni sharing their experiences with the cohort

The training was concluded with discussions on the next steps for the participants, focusing on how they can implement their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their respective communities. It was also an opportunity for Yiaga Africa to announce the launch of a Community Organizing Fund that will provide small grants of up to $5000 for the organizers to implement civic activism projects in their communities.

Itodo in his closing remarks noted that the West Africa Regional Community Organizing Institute is more than just a training program; it is a catalyst for regional change.

“Yiaga Africa is confident in the positive changes you will inspire in your communities and we remain dedicated to supporting you as you. Together we will work towards a future where democratic practices, economic stability, and good governance are the norms rather than the exceptions,” he added.

Final session with the participants giving feedback on the training

The 2024 cohort returned to their respective countries carrying with them the tools and inspiration to drive meaningful change.

About

Yiaga Africa is a non-profit civic hub of change makers committed to the promotion of democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement.

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