For the past two years, community advocacy organisation Amandla.mobi has plucked a handful of community organisers from hundreds of applicants to complete it’s campaigner fellowship. The fellowship offers black women and black gender non-conforming people from low-income communities training in campaigning, coaching, and leadership development. It’s purpose is to give fellows access to a powerful community to amplify their voices.
“Low income black women and gender non-conforming people are typically most affected by injustice. There’s a lot of barriers in terms of gaining access to the skills and resources that are required to take what they are already doing and organising it to the next level,” Amandla.mobi executive director Koketso Moeti said in an interview with The Daily Vox.
How the fellowship works
The latest run of the fellowship programme runs from 1 July to 31 October 2019. The 2019 fellows are Matshidiso Mabe, Thokozile Mntambo, Palesa Ramolefo, Khanyisile Ntshulana-Bhengu, Tlou Seopa and Dineo Rabaholo.
This is the second cohort of fellows for the organisation. The first fellowship took place in 2018.
Fellows will work for four months in a full-time, paid position. “It’s a paid fellowship programme, we do not exploit black people. We are trying to ensure that people have what they need to ensure that they are able to fully participate in the programme,” Moeti said.
Last year, Amandla.mobi won a prize for their work which has allowed the organisation to finance the fellowship.
“For us, the campaigner fellowship has been long in the making. Since starting Amandla.mobi, we knew this was the direction we wanted to take and that it is important to grow the number of Black women and non-binary people who are campaigning, not just for us as an organisation, but for partners and to support the [work] the fellows themselves are already doing,” Moeti said.
Amandla.mobi hopes to continue the fellowship for as long as possible, but is dependent on financial resources.
Equipping fellows with skills and tools for their campaigning to flourish
There are different aspects to the fellowship. One part of it is a deep media training, run by Paula Fray of Fray Intermedia. This includes skills such as column writing, interviewing, and social media as understanding the media landscape in South Africa is an in-depth part of the programme, Moeti said.
There is also a lot of campaign training which includes power mapping, power analysis, and running campaigns. The fellowship contains a tech component, training fellows on the tech tools that Amandla.mobi uses, both mobile and online. Amandla.mobi is a mobile-based communication tool which uses the cell phones in the pockets of South Africans to mobilise and enable collective action.
Another component of the fellowship is training and coaching, working in a global network. “If we look at rising inequality, the rise of the right-wing, conservative politics and environmental crises, we also are not going to win some battles while working within narrow national borders. We’re trying to give people a chance to be exposed to what’s going on in the broader, bigger world and using that as a leverage as well. There’s a lot of coaching, training and support from our global sister organisations that come in and help support the work fellows are doing,” Moeti said.
Equipping fellows with these skills and tools allows Amandla.mobi to create deeper networks to enable positive change.
Creating change is about building networks
The previous year’s fellows were instrumental in helping the Amandla.mobi community achieve important victories in a number of campaigns. Previous fellows have also gone on to launch and continue their own organising.
“Very often, when we’re trying to change things in the world we tend to think about ourselves and our organisations as being at the centre of the world. The reality is that we are challenging corporations and governments. We’re challenging elites with so much more power and resources that they are actually at the centre and we are very much on the periphery,” Moeti said.
Moeti says moving toward the centre requires building mutual understanding cooperation. “One way of collectively moving closer towards the centre is by building ecosystems in which different people are contributing in different ways through cooperation, bringing in their skills and resources. This is the only way in which we can move forward.”
Amandla.mobi has no doubt that Black women and gender non-conforming people are putting in the work and organising for change. The organisation’s purpose is to give them a platform to take what they’re already doing to the next level by connecting them with the resources and support they need.
“When I think about this space, I did not — none of us who are doing anything — just happened in a vacuum. We are made possible because we are standing on the shoulders of so many others,” Moeti said.
With this fellowship Moeti hopes organisers, who we might not ordinarily hear of, are able to also be shoulders for others to stand on. “It’s all about contributing to the bigger ecosystem where we are collectively building power in whatever way we can: helping people find ways in which they can contribute to the bigger scheme of things, engaging with whatever we need to understand that we are powerful.”
“We are powerful when we are working together in an ecosystem that is challenging power and redistributing power in very profound ways,” Moeti finished.