Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21, 2013 Day two of the Uyghur Conference, Paris

Today was the second day of the Sixth International Uyghur Women's Conference. The first part of it was all in Uyghur, so I wasn't able to get much out of it, unfortunately, though when Ms. Kadeer spoke at the beginning of the day, I was captivated by her expressions and passion. She's quite an amazing woman. One of the men from her office told me she spoke about her time in prison and about hearing the cries of young Chinese men being tortured to death. She exhorted the women to go back home and take up the cause for the Uyghurs - to let people know what is happening and to demand that their governments where they live now do something about it.

In the afternoon, several speakers taught about activism for human rights - how to do it most effectively. I have done some work in this area with One Billion Rising, but I didn't have any sort of training in it at all - I just worked with a bunch of dedicated people and we made stuff happen. I found it interesting today to hear the steps one could/should take to be most effective. When I compared it to what we did, I was pretty impressed, but it'll be good to have a way to organize ourselves now.

Here are the 8 steps to effective advocacy, according to Sue Vaughn from Freedom House:

1) identify a goal
    A) assess the situation
        1. What's the problem?        2. Who's the audience?
        3. Who are the stakeholders?
        4. Who's your opposition?
2) identify the relevant decision makers

3) educated yourself about the decision makers so you know what makes them tick and what might get them on your side. Learn about their background, education political views, voting history, personal history, close colleagues, family background, political position, strengths, weaknesses, family business, hobbies interests - sounds a bit like stalking but apparently it's really important to talk to these people about the issue in a way they can relate to to make it matter to them personally.

4) use time and resources strategically. If 20% of e people are already on your side, keep those people happy but don't otherwise expend energy on them,
If 10% will never be on your side, don't waste your time on them. Spend your time and resources on the 70% who are undecided.

5) Build your profile or " brand"
     a. Issue credibility
         1. - do your homework
         2. - collect compelling facts and figures
         3. - prepare materials
     b. Legitimacy
          1. - ethics
          2. -accountability
          3. - transparency
          4. - effectiveness

6) build and maintain relationships

7) customize your message and approach
Develop a strong message for each decision maker that addresses HIS or HER needs and motivations. It's about THEM, not YOU. Never underestimate a politician's need to be public ally adored. Select the message that's most effective for each policy maker.
-be specific about what you want for them
- get confirmation
- negotiate a deadline
- follow up
- monitor results
8) celebrate your success!

I think most of those are logical but it helped me to see them laid out so clearly.
After teaching those Sue had the participants break into small groups to work on a problem together. Is joined the group which worked on a German issue. Thankfully there was a woman in it from Germany who translated a little bit for me so I could get a sense of what was going on. Their issue was made up, but could happen. A Uyghur language school in Germany was forced by the government to close their doors. What should they do?

The group of women pictured here along with several others decided it would make sense to ask the authorities why they closed the school and ask me to reconsider. If they wouldn't, they would go to the press and at about how Munich says its a multi-cultural city and takes pride in that appellation so they should certainly be in support of such a school, etc. if necessary they would then go to the government to ask for help. There was a fair amount of discussion about when was the right time to go over the heads of the first people. In other countries, that would be a BAD choice, apparently. It was interacting watching folks work through the issue. I could see advocates being born right then and there. Very cool!

At the end of the day, those of us who had given speeches the last two days were asked to come to the front to receive an award, a certificate, and gifts. The award is a lovely trophy which I will NOT take to China with me - seems like a bad idea somehow! I was also given a lovely necklace and bracelet of light, bright green beads and a beautiful scarf to remind me of my time here from now on. What a sweet gift.

At the end of that - I think everyone received a certificate, and many, many people received gifts - we had a round of photos of every configuration I could imagine. The Uyghurs take a LOT of photos! Many people asked me to be in individual photos with them. I felt so honored that they would want a photo of me. It was lovely.

I also got a compliment that made me feel very good. One of the trainers who speaks Uyghur said she'd been asking the women what they would remember about the conference. Many of them told her that my speech gave them the most inspiration - that they want to tell their stories and to share what is inside of themselves with others. I feel very happy about that. It feels so powerful to have been able to offer that possibility to others, especially if it's a new concept for them. Another man told me that it was so good to have a presentation that was a story, that was simple, as opposed to abstract and academic, because many of the women are housewives without all that much education. My speech went to the heart of the issue and gave them inspiration and thoughts about how they could individually make a difference rather than having to be an academic or human rights worker or whatever. Amen to that. Happy, happy, happy!

Tomorrow Laura will be going back to Germany - less happy, happy - but we'll get to spend the day together in Paris before she leaves. We plan to go to the Pompideau to see some modern art. Afterwards I think I'll go to the Louvre -my first time there since 1971 when I went with my family to see the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory. Tuesday I'll go on a tour of Paris with the Uyghur women, but I don't know what we'll see then. Wednesday I leave for Beijing. crazy! What a life!!

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