Bolder Advocacy

AFJ Member Spotlight: Advocates for Youth and the 1 in 3 Campaign

AFJ Member Spotlight is a new series where we highlight the great advocacy work of Alliance for Justice members. AFJ is an alliance of more than 100 national, regional, and local organizations working for a wide range of progressive causes, click here for more information on the benefits of becoming an AFJ member organization. Today, Rachel Cooke, Associate Director of Communications for Advocates for Youth, talks about the organization and their 1 in 3 Campaign.

What is Advocates for Youth’s issue focus?

Advocates for Youth is a national non-profit that champions programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. We believe that sexuality is a normal, natural part of adolescent development and that respecting young people promotes personal responsibility far more effectively than denying them information.

Current campaign: 1 in 3 1in3

In 2011, the staff at Advocates for Youth was sitting in the conference room, talking amongst ourselves, but frustrated with the politicized debate around abortion. We were tired of only playing defense. One in three women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime, but no one was talking about it. We had to find a way to meet this challenge head on. That’s when we started the 1 in 3 Campaign, which is about ending the cultural stigma and shame women are made to feel around abortion. By sharing stories, we can empower others to end their silence and encourage all supporters of abortion access to publicly take a stand. We started with just a handful of stories, and today we’ve been honored with nearly 300 stories of women and their allies in support of abortion access.

Advocacy tip: Condition your audience to expect your content

The 1 in 3 Campaign really builds on the success of prior social change movements, like the DREAMers and HIV community that learned how to harness the power of storytelling to engage and inspire action and strengthen support for social causes. Because the goal of the campaign is to reduce the cultural stigma and shame women feel about abortion, we know a big factor in changing cultural attitude is social media. But would people want to engage with posts and stories about abortion on their very personal Facebook pages?

We had to work at it, but today we have nearly 16,000 likes on our Facebook page and the stories and other content we post has consistent engagement (likes, shares, comments). One of the best lessons we learned was to condition our followers to expect abortion stories as content. So we created “1 in 3 Thursdays,” a day we dedicate to sharing stories from the campaign and encouraging others to share with three of their friends. This strategy has worked very well for us, and over time we’ve seen the level of engagement increase.

Who inspires you?

Our youth activists inspire us every darn day! We are fortunate to have 1 in 3 Campaign youth activists on 20 campuses across the country, some in really conservative states like Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. They host speak-outs on campus, volunteer as clinic-escorts on the weekends, and rally their peers. They remind us why we continue this work and show the field that young people are out there and very active on this issue.