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Mobilize the Constituency and Use the Media

Mobilize the Constituency

Advocates should engage and empower the community and individuals to take action.. To do so, advocates should create and communicate a clear and universal message that coalition leaders and the community can support.  In addition, advocates should involve the community in decision-making whenever possible. 

Perhaps the most important aspect of mobilizing the constituency is to listen to their concerns. The position of the coalition must include the legitimate concerns without compromising the overarching goal.  Advocates should work diligently to develop buy-in from the community early in the process by demonstrating an understanding of the issues and its impact on the lives of individuals.

Finally, advocates should share information about the specific legislative or policy proposal, including the talking points and specific draft language.  Advocates may want to investigate and utilize the technological tools available to help disseminate such information and to allow constituents to quickly, easily, and effectively respond to calls to action.

See: Legislative Advocacy Resource Guide:  Promoting Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Global Rights, 16, 2005.

Example: In 1997 in Slovenia and Croatia a coalition of trade unions, women’s groups, and universities instituted massive campaigns to raise awareness about workplace sexual harassment. The campaigns focused on changing attitudes in the workplace and educating women about their legal rights to a workplace free from sexual harassment. (See Sexual Harassment - Raising Awareness in Slovenia & Croatia)
CASE STUDY:  In 2006, the Coordinadora Departamental de Defensorías Comunitarias del Cusco (CODECC) won an award for social innovation from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean based on its work developing a community defenders program.  This program trains women from poor and marginalized communities in the Cuzco region of Peru to help other women who have been victims of violence to come forward and report the crime. Many of the volunteers had themselves been victims of domestic violence. The volunteers support women throughout the difficult process of telling their story, filing police report and legal claims, and seeking justice in court. The organization also provides legal and psychological aid among other activities focused on defending the rights of women in Peru to be free from violence. See: Milagros Salazar, Cuzco Women Stand Up to Violence, Nov. 4, 2009.

Use the Media

Advocates should use the media to draw attention to the issue and raise public awareness. In doing so, advocates should provide clear factual evidence to the media in a timely manner; respond quickly to inquiries, but also carefully consider the responses; develop good relationships with reporters responsible for the issue; and use press releases, background briefings, letters to the editor, and opinion pieces using news hooks such as timely events, public policy conflicts or other hot media topics. (See: Legislative Advocacy Resource Guide:  Promoting Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Global Rights, 16, 2005)

CASE STUDY: The Inter Press Service’s handbook for journalists on Reporting Gender-based Violence is a helpful resource for journalists and advocates around the world. The handbook provides issue overviews, statistical information, and most importantly sample news stories that reflect best practices for reporting on gender-based violence. The facts and statistics are in a format that can be readily adapted and transmitted to journalists in the form of a press release or a quote over the phone. The sample stories come from media outlets around the globe and can be used by advocates in planning media strategies and as examples when working with journalists during advocacy campaigns. The handbook covers religious and harmful traditional practices, domestic violence, sexual gender-based violence, femicide, sex work and trafficking, sexual harassment, gender-based violence in armed conflict and refugee women, HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence, child abuse, men’s role in combating gender-based violence, criminal justice, and costs of gender-based violence.

CASE STUDY: Tanzania – In the late 1990s, the Media Women’s Association in Tanzania worked on a campaign to promote the enactment of a law to criminalize FGM in that country. The program used data from public surveys, radio, television, theater, and print media to raise awareness about the issue. The campaign has since developed into a regional initiative, Stop FGM/C, with partner organizations from East Africa and the Horn of Africa. See: UN Secretary-General’s In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women, 97 (2006).