Advocacy and Action
You can get involved right now in feminist advocacy by joining the Generation Equality Forum and movements in your local and national context. This study guide explores some of the ways to get started.
This study guide was made collaboratively with the contribution of many younger and older feminists active in movements and the Beijing+25 process. Read about our contributors on the About page. Explore all 7 sections at your own pace!
Welcome to the Advocacy guide.
Feminist advocacy has a long history tied to formal government spaces like the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) and Beijing+25 process as well as through social movements at local and national levels. Advocacy can target policy and legal change as well as deeply rooted social change on the level of culture, community and norms. This advocacy guide will look at how you, as a young feminist, can get involved in the broader movement for gender equality with a special focus on the GEF.
This study guide starts with video dialogues featuring younger and older feminists followed by action guides!
Note: The Feminist Action Lab is meant to be a starting point, not a comprehensive guide. Content updated June 2021.
What is advocacy and why is a feminist and intergenerational approach important? Young feminist Nino Ugrekhelidze from the transnational feminist organization AWID and Andrea Parra, a feminist lawyer and scholar discuss the history of Beijing+25 and advocacy trends. Learn more about Nino and Andrea on the About page.
25 years ago the Beijing Platform for Action was launched. It shook the world and became an engine for advocacy on gender equality. In 2021 Generation Equality Forum (GEF) was launched as part of the Beijing process to accelerate commitments on gender equality.
The GEF is a 5 year process that will generate many opportunities for youth leadership, resourcing and advocacy. Explore some of the ways to get involved today, below:
GEF Action Coalitions
The Generation Equality Forum (GEF) is one of the global moments in feminist advocacy that will accelerate gender equality world wide. The conference is implemented by UN Women and part of the Beijing+25 process. Launching in March and June of 2021 and continuing until 2025, the GEF has set ambitious commitments across governments, donors, private sector actors, civil society and youth organizations. These commitments are only as strong as their implementation – which means that youth civil society can play a key role in holding commitment makers accountable. Young people have the right to shape the GEF’s agenda, make ambitious commitments themselves, and monitor and demand accountability for a more inclusive, transformative and equitable process.
Currently, the GEF has 6 active “Action Coalitions” which you can follow and participate in as a “Commitment Maker”:
1. Gender Based Violence
2. Economic Justice & Rights
3. Feminist Action for Climate Justice
4. Feminist Movements & Leadership
5. Bodily Autonomy and Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights
6. Technology & Innovation for Gender Equality
Action Coalitions have generated some key tools already including:
- Blueprints for Action which summarize the agenda and advocacy priorities of each Action Coalition.
- A Global Acceleration Plan that includes 4 game changing targets specific to each Action Coalition.
- A Commitment Making Platform to track your government’s, the private sector’s, and civil society commitments. This platform will also be a way for your organization to sign up as a commitment maker and engage in longer term advocacy with Action Coalitions.
Youth led civil society can participate and leverage commitments made in global spaces, for change in their country and communities. In addition to joining an Action Coalition as a Commitment Maker, ongoing monitoring and reviewing of gender equality commitments will continue through “mechanisms” such as National Reviews, Global Reviews, Regional Reviews as well as Parallel Processes which help highlight gaps, achievements and powerful perspectives to influence stakeholders. National Youth Reviews for example can be a form of advocacy to highlight youth-specific demands. For a more detailed snapshot of formal mechanisms to get involved in GEF advocacy we recommend visiting:
Parallel and Related Processes to the GEF
Power within UN spaces is an active and contested process. Young feminists and youth-led organizations have the right to be equal partners and decision-makers in advocacy spaces like the GEF.
Whether or not the GEF is able to engage youth in meaningful ways will be based on a number of factors including holding donors, states, UN agencies and civil society organizations accountable to intergeneration power sharing, restoring, and resourcing.
In an effort to create more meaningful and youth-led spaces for advocacy, several regional and global youth manifestos and platforms have already been created. We highly encourage Action Lab users to explore and get involved with the following youth-led initiatives below:
1. NALA Collective’s Africa Young Women B+25 Manifesto
The Africa Young Women Beijing+25 Manifesto is a groundbreaking feminist political document that sets out critical issues of concern for young women of Africa and makes demands for addressing them. Explore more at http://nalafem.org/manifesto/
2. GEF Young Feminist Manifesto & UnConference
This manifesto was developed by young activists in the context of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF). It was co-created through a participative process involving youth-led organizations participating as Action Coalition co-leaders, the Generation Equality Youth Task Force (YTF), young feminists from the global Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG) and Mexican CSAG as well as the National Gender Youth Activists (NGYAs). Explore more at https://gefyouthmanifesto.wixsite.com
3. AWID’s Beijing Unfettered
“Beijing Unfettered is about young feminist movements across the globe engaging in offline and online conversations with a creative and participatory methodology. It is about articulating our bold and propositional feminist visions and agendas, unfettered from restrictions endemic to formal policy processes.” – AWID, Beijing Unfettered
At Restless Development, ensuring young people’s voices are heard in advocacy is central to our mission. The Feminist Action Lab has shared only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the feminist movements active today. The following section will introduce some advocacy tools and resources to help support your work beyond the GEF.
Tactics versus Advocacy
At the heart of it, advocacy is about thinking through how change happens and building a strategy to make that change happen. Feminist advocacy also focuses on the process of making change through shared feminist analysis, democratic decision-making and ensuring intersectional and inclusive perspectives.
Advocacy is not an operational plan of activities (although your activities might involve “doing” advocacy). Each of the activities you decide to do need to be tactical decisions that drive forward your strategy to deliver the change you’re aiming for.
Advocacy is also not just attending events. Conferences, meetings and workshops are a brilliant place to “do” advocacy, but they also need to be treated as a tactical choice. How do they help you deliver your strategy and how can you use them as an opportunity to influence the people who can deliver the change you seek?
Advocacy is not just about awareness and research. While awareness campaigns and research are fantastic tactics for making your message heard – it will only lead to good advocacy if it helps you influence decision-makers to implement the change you want to achieve.
Sustained, collective, movement advocacy is hard work. Many youth-led organizations and collectives are chronically underfunded and struggle in compensating, growing, or ensuring the wellbeing of their staff because of funding shortfalls. Unlike larger organizations with dedicated full-time staff who specialize in resource mobilization, many youth-led organizations must divide their time between implementing advocacy and looking for funding.
There is a long way to go for governments, donor organizations and INGOs to resource and strengthen youth-led civil society, especially young feminist organizations but there is a small but growing minority who are dedicated to youth-led change. Check out some of these funders and funding tools below.
- Young Feminist Europe’s Resource GoogleSheet
- CIVICUS’ Donor Finder Tool
- AWID’s Donor Search Tool
- FRIDA the Young Feminist Fund
- Mama Cash
- NoVo Foundation
- FCAM (Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres)
- EmPower Fund
- Initiative Sankofa d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ISDAO)
- Ashoka Youth Venture
- GLOBAL YOUTH COALITION ON HIV/AIDS (GYCA)
- The International Youth Foundation
Here are some key components of feminist advocacy that you can consider while building your campaign or movement:
1. Focus on the Process
- Define your shared values. Spend time on creating and defining your values as a group. Do you believe in collective decision-making? Will you be making your advocacy accessible and ensuring reasonable accommodation? Is safe space, consent, privacy, accountability and other feminist values critical to your work? Don’t skimp on defining what’s important or your ways of working! The process is often as important as the goal.
- Address power internally. Even if you share feminist values and analysis, not everyone involved will have the same social and political power in your group. By asking the hard questions early, you can help ensure your group does not recreate the very oppressive systems it seeks to change. Be intentional about how leadership and decisions are made, especially the power of marginalized people, so you can bring everyone along instead of focusing on the loudest or most privileged person in the room.
2. Protect Your Community
Learn digital self-defense. We know that surveillance and backlash by conservative and fundamentalist groups are on the rise, especially against vocal young feminists. Invest in conducting security and risk assessments for your group, including brushing up on your feminist digital security skills. This may mean focusing on privacy online or mapping out support networks and resources in case of backlash.
3. Define the Change You Want To See
- Research and analyze the issue. Feminist advocates are all about analyzing the root causes of issues. Maybe this means spending time reading or watching films together. Maybe this means sharing experiences and stories. However you choose to “build your base” or group, making sure you bring everyone in your political education journey.
- Keep it simple and specific. Keep your change simple – you should be able to sum it up in a sentence. It should also be something specific. “Ending climate change” is a great ambition, but it isn’t something you will be able to deliver! There are many tools to help you drill down big problems into actionable or “bite sized” chunks. One of our favorite strategic tools for defining your issue is:
- Issue Cut – This is a visioning activity to help you break big complex issues into smaller, actionable ones.
4. Map Your Allies and Opponents
- Power map. All advocacy requires knowing who has the power to make the change you seek. Stakeholders can vary from being strong allies to active opponents. By strategically identifying people in your ecosystem, you can build laser-focused campaigns and actions to influence power holders and avoid wasting time or energy on power-takers. Here is one of our favorite movement building tools for knowing your audience:
- Power Mapping – This activity helps you understand the different interests and power of stakeholders for building strategic advocacy projects.
- Consider technology. In Restless Development’s experience, working with youth activists around the world during the Covid19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide in advocacy. In many countries, while young people shifted to working online, elected officials and powerful stakeholders did not. It’s important to research how active and transparent your key targets are in their work online before designing specific actions and tactics that rely on digital communication. A simple phone campaign or in-person meeting may be more effective in some cases, depending on your audience!
5. Get Creative With Your Strategy
Advocacy strategies are all about planning for the change you want to seek. Tactics are smaller actions and strategic decisions that will help you get there. Tactics are not advocacy in and of themselves, but a means to influence and enact change. Tactics can fall into two broad categories: insider and outsider.
- Insider advocacy is all about relationship building with individuals behind closed doors. This could be writing a private letter to them making your case, having a meeting, or organizing a closed door roundtable with young people to discuss the issue further. Insider advocacy focuses on building the relationship with a stakeholder and building their trust so that you can have honest conversations.
- Outsider advocacy is more creative. This might be organizing a public event and inviting the stakeholder, organizing a demonstration, placing an opinion piece in a national newspaper or organizing a creative media stunt. It is about building a noise or “buzz” around an issue.
Most good advocacy strategies use both approaches and many creative tactics. A useful way of approaching your tactical planning is to think about taking your stakeholder on a journey – starting with some basic activities that raise the issue with your stakeholder and then becoming more creative.
Sometimes advocacy campaigns fall into the trap of choosing a tactic without defining their expected outcome. Each tactic should be appropriate for the audience and purposeful in its design. One of our favorite strategic tools for refining tactics is:
- POP Method – This tool helps you focus on the Purpose, Outcome, and Methods (POP) core to your campaign’s strategic messaging.
- Beautiful Trouble Tactics Toolbox – This is a library of movement tactics and strategies to learn from across the world. There are 1000s of different tactics to explore and adapt for what your campaign needs.
6. Reflect & Re-strategize
- Documenting and passing on. As you build your campaign and movement, consider documenting your advocacy journey. This will help pass on knowledge and learning to others in the group or those yet to join! Issues of privacy may be a consideration for how you document and store your advocacy learning.
- Reflect and measure your outcomes. Whether your campaign strategy is successful or facing challenges, making the time to reflect and evaluate your outcomes is critical to movement building. Once you recognize what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to change in the future – you can re-strategize to be more effective!
7. Tell your story
Narratives and storytelling are not small things. They are vehicles for social movements to influence, inspire, and communicate your vision for a more just society. Personal narratives can help politicize and inspire collective action in support of your campaign goals. Storytelling is essential to building power in feminist movements and when integrated strategically into your advocacy strategy – can really accelerate your campaign.
We would like to thank everyone that has completed the Feminist Action Lab. We are inspired by feminist movements and the young feminists leading them. If you would like to keep in touch with Restless Development and the Feminist Action Lab team, email us at: FeministActionLab@restlessdevelopment.org!