Advocacy – the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal.
Many people ask why nonprofit organizations like YWCA Greater Cleveland engage in the important work of advocacy. While the dictionary definition presents a clear and factual understanding of what advocacy is, perhaps it’s best to look at some of the reasons why organizations like YWCA Greater Cleveland engage in advocacy:
• According to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, homelessness among public school students is at an all-time high, which is particularly concerning with high school students since many of these teens are often living on their own.
• Accused of racism as recently as this year, Colgate University, Lehigh University, Oberlin University and the University of Cincinnati, among others, now have mandates in place for campus wide diversity training programs.
• An estimated 29.8 million men, women, and children around the world are currently victims of modern slavery, which includes human trafficking, sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. Homeless youth are frequently targeted.
• Per statistics shared by the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland, Cleveland is the 7th most violent city in the country, 19% of violent crime victims are under the age of 19, and 50% of Cleveland students drop out of school before finishing.
That’s why advocacy matters. That’s #YWeAct. So often, women, youth and minorities have little or no voice in policy making decisions that matter. As a result, these groups continue to bear the brunt of outdated policies that serve to, whether intentional or not, adversely impact these groups. Advocacy gives a voice to those who have no voice. Advocacy provides a platform for the important discussions needed to truly impact policy change. Advocacy brings the voice of the voiceless to the table so that all members of the community are heard.
That’s why advocacy matters. So what can you do to advocate on behalf of those who may not have a voice? Where can you raise your voice so the least among us can be heard? How can you use the power of the pen to bring realistic and startling statistics to light in an attempt to change things for the better?
Kim St. John-Stevenson is a communications consultant working with the YWCA Cleveland. She is a former YWCA Cleveland board member, and she is also a former Early Learning Center mom.