Gender Action Mainstreaming for Empowerment to Change

gender advocacy

Women's Rights | Women's empowerment | Working with men | Participation | Wealth Creation | Sustainability |
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Advocacy | Research |

Advocacy is about influencing or changing relationships of power… It can involve:
Representation: speaking on behalf of the voiceless and/or
Mobilization: encouraging others to speak with you and/or
Empowerment: supporting the voiceless to speak for themselves
Of these the last is the most important.
(World Bank training module 2001).

Citizen centred advocacy is an organised political process that involves the coordinated efforts of people to change policies, practices, ideas and values that perpetuate inequality, prejudice, and exclusion.  It strengthens citizens’ capacity as decision makers and builds more accountable and equitable institutions of power.
(VeneKlasen and Miller, World Neighbours 2002)


rise of advocacy

Advocacy campaigns by those with less power attempting to influence those with power over them have existed as long as the power inequalities themselves.  Trade Unions and Labour movements commonly engage in lobbying and advocacy of different types. Support for such movements on the part of better off ‘advocates ‘ with specific expertise, knowledge or contacts in the existing power structures has also generally been part of such movements.   

From the mid 1990s the increasing openness of many government and international systems to democratic processes and the increasing recognition of citizens’ rights advocacy was increasingly seen as an effective means of bringing about pro-poor change. There was a growth in specialist advocacy organisations, particularly international NGOs which increased the number and range of campaigns undertaken and levels of international organization and visibility. The World Bank set up a Community Empowerment and Social Inclusion Learning Program (CESI). Advocacy became an important element in the programmes supported by USAID, AUSAID, CIDA and DFID.

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Gender Issues

Advocacy issue/objective: Does the vision and goal of the advocacy promote gender justice? Very often advocacy campaigns do not include gender issues as part of their goal. On the other hand feminist advocacy is often seen as adversarial rather than bringing men on board.

Who is involved? Are women as well as men intended to benefit? Are women as well as men seen as leaders and advocates? Which women? There is often a split between the intended beneficiaries and the advocates which can undermine the advocacy process.

Information and research: Most advocacy requires research and information to support the campaign. The advocacy process itself also requires monitoring of the effectiveness of the activities. Are gender dimensions included in the research and monitoring priorities?

Negotiation and communication: Who is involved in advocacy activities? Awareness-raising, capacity-building, organising, lobbying?

Who is involved in decision-making on all the above? Are women adequately represented on the decision-making bodies?

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community-led ADVOCACY STRATEGY for gender justice

Not all advocacy processes need to be community-led. It is important that peoples' scarce time and resources are not taken up with activities where technical experts and policy makers should in any case be responsible for promoting gender justice as an integral part of their responsibilities. Nevertheless there is often insufficient knowledge and understanding of the realities of women and men's lives in poor households and communities on the part of these technical experts and policy makers. This both undermines the relevance of many of the 'solutions' they propose, and reduces the support and accountability for implementation.

Processes in the GAMEchange Network are therefore developing the GALS methodology as the basis for advocacy research beased on a number of principles:

  • Womens human rights and gender justice are a non-negotiable and integral part of any policy making
  • Participation and representation of poor women and men is generally necessary to develop relevant and achievable policies for wealth creation
  • Most advocacy processes require and can catalyse community-led learning on gender issues - combining awareness-raising, participatory research and planning as an integrated process
  • Catalysing a broad-based process and structures for information collection on issues which are important for people themselves and giving people the skills to collect and communicate information at all levels will increase the effectiveness and accountability of the advocacy process - making the outcomes more sustainable and difficult to reverse even in changing economic and political circumstances.
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