Advocacy Beyond Peace Corps
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, July 8th, 2013
While plenaries, workshops and informal conversations at Peace Corps Connect – Boston 2013 centered around the past, present and future of the Peace Corps, there were also plenty of offerings concerning other issues that members of the Peace Corps community care deeply about.
The National Peace Corps Association’s advocacy program, assisted by Boston Area Advocacy Coordinator Vanessa Porter, organized a session which brought attention to several other public policy issues that touch upon experiences of many within the Peace Corps community.
Featured panelists for the session were Brian Callahan, Advocacy and Outreach Manager for the Global Campaign for Education – US (GCE-US) and Sarah Kalloch, Campaign Alliances Manager for Oxfam America. They sparked a lively conversation with approximately twenty-five Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from around the country on key campaigns focusing on the issues of basic education, poverty and food security. And, they offered up ways RPCVs can take action.
Education for All:
This Friday, July 12th, marks the 16th birthday of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for universal education and girl’s right to education. Malala survived a life-threatening gunshot attack aimed at silencing her. Approximately 60 million young people are believed to be out of school and denied access to basic education. To mark her birthday, Malala will travel to the United Nations in New York to speak about the importance of education.
Take Action: In advance of this July 12th visit, Callahan says the Peace Corps community can sign this petition to support Malala and urge leadership to prioritize basic education.
Responsible and Just Food Production:
Kalloch provided an overview of the many issues and campaigns promoted by Oxfam, a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger and injustice. One of the organization’s most dynamic efforts currently underway is its GROW Campaign, which aims to build a better food system that sustainably feeds a growing population and empowers poor people to earn a living. Part of this effort is the Behind the Brands initiative, which rates a number of leading food companies on a variety of issues ranging from transparency, to supporting small farmers and women, to addressing climate change.
Take Action: Kalloch urges the Peace Corps community to get connected to the Behind the Brands Initiative.
Further Down the Road:
The panelists cited other activities their organizations are involved in further down the calendar in which members of the Peace Corps community can play a very helpful role. Oxfam is one of many organizations engaged in planning for the October 16th observance of World Food Day, a day of action against hunger. One of the most compelling activities Oxfam promotes during World Food Day (and throughout the year) is the hosting of hunger banquets.
For the GCE-US and other like-minded organizations, April is key moment each year on the calendar. That month marks Global Action Week, an annual collaboration in the United States to provide information and promote the importance of quality, universal basic education around the world.
Making A Difference:
In the course of their presentations, Callahan and Kalloch reinforced some maxims that apply to global issues advocacy, just as they do with advocacy on the Peace Corps. They stressed that one person can make a difference, and shared anecdotes on how a single individual or small group have caused a lawmaker to take positive action.
They also noted the important role RPCVs can play in advocacy initiatives. Having lived and served in countries impacted by severe hunger, poverty and access to education, individuals who were in the Peace Corps can provide first-hand, respected testimonies on key global issues.
Finally, Callahan and Kalloch concluded by encouraging action, even if it involves taking a moment to sign a petition or make a phone call. The more time an individual can take to act, the better. However any individual action taken to press for change is multiplied exponentially by others taking similar action, leading to a powerful demonstration of support for communities and people with whom we worked and lived.