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Coalition Building

Advocates should invest time in building and maintaining strong relationships with all sectors that have interest in or may be impacted by the particular advocacy effort.  While it may be tempting to work independently toward an advocacy goal given the time and effort required success is more often achieved when such entities join together. 

Advocates should consult with national and international experts who may offer advice, as well as constituents and stakeholders impacted by the advocacy goal.  Advocates may want to engage these experts, constituents, and stakeholders in the advocacy coalition as appropriate.  Advocates should also identify and talk with potential NGO partners or allies.  Once coalition partners are identified and invited to participate, the lead NGO for the advocacy effort should organize a face-to-face meeting of all those involved.

During the initial meeting, coalition partners should define common goals and strategies of the advocacy coalition and establish a decision-making, meeting, and communications plan.  In addition, advocates should:

  • Determine which member of the coalition will take the leadership role;
  • Define roles of each coalition member;
  • Clarify financial resources available for the efforts;
  • Clarify how often the coalition will meet;
  • Clarify how often and in what form coalition members should communicate;
  • Share draft legislation;
  • Circulate position papers; and
  • Organize informational briefings to integrate more NGOs into the coalition.

Once the coalition is established, advocates should ensue that time and resources are devoted to maintaining relationships with coalition members as well as broadening the network of influence with the following individuals and organizations:

  • Government officials
  • Non-government organizations (NGOs)
  • The public
  • Legislators or members of parliament
  • The media

See:  Legislative Advocacy Resource Guide:  Promoting Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Global Rights, 15, 2005; Women’s Human Rights Step by Step, Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch, 1997.

 

CASE STUDY:  The Lawyers Collective in India was established in the early eighties with a mandate to realize rights of marginalized groups through advocacy and public interest lawyering. The LCWRI is a unit of the Lawyers Collective that was created in 1998 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The mandate of the LCWRI was to provide legal aid to survivors of domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault. At the time the LCWRI was established, India did not have a separate law on domestic violence. Criminal provisions on cruelty within marriages and civil provisions on divorce were used to address to address violence within the home. The limitation of using these laws was that it did not provide any relief, in terms of shelter or maintenance, to women. As a result of this women would frequently be rendered homeless and destitute if they decided to take legal recourse to address domestic violence.  

LCWRI identified the need for a civil law on domestic violence, aimed at providing relief and injunctive orders to women facing violence within the home. The LCWRI identified the need for this civil law from its practice of providing legal aid to women. It then proceeded to draft the civil law based on research into national laws including those of other countries, jurisprudence developed by national courts and international adjudicatory fora as well as international standards on violence against women. 

Once a first draft was prepared in 1999, the LCWRI held a series of consultation over the next two years to build a national consensus on the draft law. The regional consultations were held in partnership with the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and other local organizations. The regional consultative process provided a powerful opportunity to build a coalition of stakeholders on the issue. This effort was also designed to infuse the draft law with lessons learned from the experiences of women's organizations from across the country that had been providing services to survivors of violence at the grassroots level. The draft law was amended several times to include suggestions from these consultations.

The coalition alliances formed through the regional consultation process also were maintained during the campaign to lobby for this law, which lasted until 2005 when the draft law enacted as the "Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act" (PWDVA) from the Central Government. The LCWRI spent the next year drafting the rules to give effect to this law. The PWDVA was finally brought into effect in 2006. See: Personal Communication from Asmita Basu, Jan. 31, 2010; Domestic Violence, The Lawyers Collective.

 

CASE STUDY:  On December 28, 2004, Spain adopted changes to its Organic Act 1/2004 (English) (Spanish) to incorporate protection measures against gender-based violence.  Women’s advocate associations had been working since 1993 to promote the passage of a law that would provide the ability for victims to obtain a restraining order against the perpetrator of domestic violence.  In 1998, the Socialist Party asked the women’s associations to participate in preparing a draft law against gender-based violence.  The draft was submitted to the Spanish Parliament in December 2001, but rejected by the ruling party.

Despite the initial rejection of the law, women’s organizations continued to look for support among international and national organizations to assist in advocating for a law against gender-based violence.  In January 2002, a number of national and regional organizations formed the Feminist Network against Gender Violence to work together to pass a comprehensive law against gender-based violence.  The network’s approach considered all forms of violence against women, namely domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms as gender-based violence.  In fact, the Preamble to the Organic Act 1/2004 states that: 

Gender violence is not a problem confined to the private sphere. On the contrary, it stands as the most brutal symbol of the inequality persisting in our society. It is violence directed against women for the mere fact of being women; considered, by their aggressors, as lacking the most basic rights of freedom, respect and power of decision.  See:  Organic Act 1/2004, Preamble (English) (Spanish).

The network met and communicated their message to members of the government and parliamentary groups from the time the network was formed in 2002 to the law’s eventual passage in 2004.  The network launched a campaign for an integrated law called “Por Una Ley Integral.”  At the same time, debates about the constitutionality of the law described in various media sources.  The debates may have helped to force the government to make the security of women, the right to equality, and the elimination of discrimination against women a priority.  In the end, the efforts of the network were instrumental in raising the awareness of the public about gender-based violence, and holding the government accountable for protecting the human rights of women by advocating for the passage of laws against gender violence.

See:  Developing Legislation on Violence Against Women in Spain, Response from Carmen de la Fuente Méndez, Pueblos Unidos, March 2010; El gobierno mantiene que la ley contra la violencia ampare solo a las mujeres, Mujeres en Red (2004).