Breast cancer campaigning and the limits of awareness raising

As usual, campaigning about the impact of breast cancer — raising awareness about prevention, treatment, and the toll it takes — rates highly in the news these days. Just before I went on my holidays, I planned to write a post on campaigning on breast cancer awareness and the Komen Foundation, following a magazine article on the topic. Then out came yesterday the Angelina Jolie New York Times op-ed. It’s an evergreen story if ever I saw one.

Breast cancer is an important issue to me, as I’m obviously a female and I’ve had family members with some tumor scares. But I’ll admit I rejoiced when I read a New York Times Magazine article about breast cancer campaigning, the Komen Foundation, and just how far awareness-raising campaigns can go to save lives. In short: there is a limit.

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What is advocacy?

This is definitely the question I get the most — from my parents to country directors and heads of mission. The word “advocacy” (or “plaidoyer” or “Meinungsbildung”) isn’t terribly clear itself. So this is what I usually tell people. (And with a big smile and lots of passion! Advocacy is wonderful!)

Advocacy is about influence. It’s trying to get other people to think the way you think.
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