Step 6: Determine the “ask:” Develop tailored messages to compel each target audience
Advocacy efforts should be centered around a few key messages that are presented in a compelling manner by credible sources. Messages often communicate why the issue is a problem and what is needed to resolve it. Remember that the audience is the policy-maker, not other advocates or experts. According to one resource on designing advocacy strategies, there are three key questions to answer when preparing advocacy messages:
- Who are we trying to reach with the message?
- What do we want to achieve with the message?
- To provide information?
- Encourage the will to act?
- Recognize leadership?
- What action do we want the recipient of the message to take as a result of the message?
An “ask” should be a simple, consistent, evidence-based request to advance your advocacy objectives. The “ask”—or your articulation of the action you are asking your target audience to take to bring about the desired change—should include one or several of the following:
- The magnitude of the issue or problem, using supporting data when possible: When examining the information on gender discrimination that is available in your context, consider whether there is one key country-specific fact or statistic that could be well understood and included in advocacy communications. For example, to support advocacy efforts to promote workplaces free of sexual harassment in Rwanda, you could cite the study that found that 55% of health workers who experience workplace violence either quit or think about quitting their job after the incident. If you conduct any of the sex-disaggregated data analyses described in the Examine sections of this tool, then you can include findings in your messaging.
- Personal consequences of gender discrimination in your advocacy messages: Often, policy-makers will have a greater response to the personal story of someone affected by a gender equality issue. For example, advocacy to eliminate wage discrimination may be most effective when it shows the effect it has on health worker motivation (e,g., “I learned from my supervisor that my male colleagues were earning more than me, even though we were both performing at the same level. I became discouraged that I was not being paid the same for equal work, and I started looking for other jobs. I eventually quit.”). Once this personal consequence of gender discrimination has captured their attention, they may be more willing to listen to the statistics describing the magnitude of the problem and act on it.
- A rights-based approach: Citing the legislation or other policies that your country leaders may have ratified, consider how you can develop an ethical, rights-based argument to your decision-maker.
- A sense of urgency or threat: Reframing a condition and/or capitalizing on a critical, emotionally charged event are common ways to turn a condition into a compelling policy problem. For example, the gang rape and fatal assault of a female physiotherapy student in Delhi, India, brought thousands of protesters to the streets, urging politicians to improve women’s safety throughout the country. Too often, gender discrimination and violence are normalized and health workers just live with it, especially when they need to maintain their employment.
Once you have developed your key messages, the next step is to prepare for delivering them to the target audience. Consider:
- Will your request be part of an informal discussion or require a formal presentation?
- How much time will you have to make your case?
- If more than one of you is involved, who will present the issue and who will ask the decision-maker to act?
- How will you follow up? Is another meeting needed?