Making your voice heard (Unit 1)

INTRODUCTION

Task- Please introduce yourself in the classroom/course-forum and tell us what you’d personally hope to expect at the end of this course. (Try to be very open-minded and respond to posts from other learners).

Today, there are many options for making your opinions heard on issues affecting your community, much more than there were many years ago. Although, some countries still face stiff rights’ challenges with respect to freedom of speech, but there are still many alternatives to making your voice heard and contributing to real change in your community. In countries where the constitution and rule of law is respected, the rights of free speech, free press, petition, and assembly are guaranteed to a considerably extent. These rights assure that political parties, interest/pressure groups, and individuals can influence the making of laws and public policies for societal improvement.

Choosing the most effective way to influence the political process can be challenging. What methods would be most effective and what benefits do selected approaches offer? These are very pertinent questions that potential change makers and activists must ask in order to lead successful initiatives toward positive change in their respective communities. There are indeed many options to consider, in your drive to amplify your voice and make effective social and political change. We have highlighted some of these options below:

Letters to public officials-

Letters to public officials is one very effective way to make your voice heard and ultimately contribute to change. Here are some tips to help increase the effectiveness of your letter to a public official (culled from the American civil liberties union website):

Keep it brief: Letters should never be longer than one page, and should be limited to one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible.

State Who You Are and What You Want Up Front: In the first paragraph, tell your legislators that you are a constituent and identify the issue about which you are writing. If your letters pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (e.g. H.R. ____ or S. _____).

Hit your three most important points: Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading legislators to support your position and flesh them out.

Personalize your letter: Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in his community or state. If you have one, include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. A constituent’s personal stories can be the very persuasive as your legislator shapes his or her position.

Personalize your relationship: Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.

You are the Expert: Remember that your legislator’s job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Remember that often your elected official may know no more about a given issue than you do.

Letter-writing campaigns-

A letter-writing tactic that can be particularly effective is a letter-writing campaign, where dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people write either to the same official (if they’re all in, or somehow represent people who are in the receiver’s district) or to many officials about a specific vote, policy, or budget item. This can be extremely effective, especially when the letter-writers are people who don’t usually contact their elected officials.

If you want to engage in a letter-writing campaign, you have to prepare properly. Many people, especially people who see themselves as powerless and unimportant, and who may have little education, are intimidated by the thought of writing to someone in power. In some countries, writing such a letter can carry a certain amount of economic, social, or physical risk, so you must consider your options carefully. In addition to reluctance based on feelings of fear and intimidation, many people affected by an issue- especially those with low levels of education can be embarrassed by their poor writing skills, or feel that they don’t have anything convincing to say. They need help putting their letters together, and they need a model to go by. You, as the coordinator of the letter-writing campaign should be aware of what you/your team has to do to meet these needs.

Petitioning-

Petitions are also an effective way to communicate and make the government implement popular changes (especially when they gain sufficient traction). For an effective campaign, you need to take into account a number of issues when working on a petitioning’ approach. These includes identifying your target, proper research, clear communication and how you will promote your petition.

(You can find a more detailed guide to writing an effective petition at: visit)

Kindly note that it is very important to properly examine your options with respect to purpose, benefits, costs and ultimately “your safety”; before picking/prioritizing any option.

 

While this course will not go too deep in examining each possible option available for you as an activist or change maker, we will however be focusing on demonstrations, talking to the government and kick-starting your own movement/initiative in the next units.

 
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