Photo credit: Etuna Tsotniashvili

KWN Director Shares Advocacy Experience in Georgia

The East West Management Institute organized a conference on “Applying International Experience of CSO Advocacy” on 16-17 Oct. in Tbilisi, Georgia as part of the USAID-supported Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development Project in Georgia (G-PAC). The Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN)Executive Director Igballe Rogova was among panelists sharing their advocacy expertise.
     During a panel on “International advocacy campaigns: what works and what doesn’t,” Rogova described KWN’s advocacy strategies, using KWN’s advocacy efforts to tackle domestic violence as an example:
1.      Step 1. Identify the issue: Domestic violence (DV) is among the most widespread types of violence in Kosovo, but when KWN began its work on this issue immediately after the war, the legal framework for addressing it was incomplete and institutions lacked knowledge, expertise and procedures on how to address it.
2.      Step 2. Devise a Strategy, build a coalition, secure resources: KWN as a network of organizations created its strategy on this issue as part of our organizational four-year strategy, in close cooperation with other actors working in this area. The strategy involved research, awareness-raising, direct advocacy to stakeholders and follow-up monitoring.  KWN built a strong coalition of actors, a “Triangle of Cooperation” between civil society; government, particularly the Agency for Gender Equality (AGE) in the Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo; and donors/international organizations, especially UNDP.
3.      Step 3. Conduct Research: With support from UNDP and under the auspices of AGE, KWN led the first nation-wide random household survey of 1,256 women and men on domestic violence. KWN also interviewed diverse representatives of relevant institutions throughout the country (e.g., policy, judges, prosecutors, social workers, shelters, forensics, healthcare workers). The resulting report, Security Begins at Home, showed the level of awareness of people and institutions regarding various issues related to domestic violence, as well as the extent of incidence of different forms of violence. It contained clear recommendations for policies and specific areas in need of awareness-raising.
4.      Step 4. Formulating policies: Using the research, KWN put forth specific policy recommendations for the legal framework with support from legal experts. 
5.      Step 5. Taking actions: KWN advocated to various institutions regarding the importance of implementing the report recommendations and installing the recommended legal framework by meeting with them and discussing the recommendations orally. KWN representatives then participated in the government working group during the process of drafting the legal framework, including the new Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, amendments to the Criminal Code, the Standard Operating Procedures shared among all institutions for addressing cases of domestic violence and the National Strategy and Action Plan on Protection against Domestic Violence.
     Meanwhile, KWN organized several awareness-raising campaigns with different actors to raise public awareness about various forms of domestic violence. This included producing music videos by famous singers about domestic violence; street demonstrations involving citizens (including men in taking actions against violence against women); involving media to show that citizens will react when courts fail to uphold their responsibilities; and working with institutions to build their skills in better addressing domestic violence.
6.      Step 6. Monitoring: It’s important not to stop once you’ve achieved your aims. Monitoring is essential to ensure implementation. Since the new legal framework was put in place, KWN has published two more policy-oriented research reports, looking at access to justice for survivors of domestic violence, and the state budget for implementing the legal framework, whether sufficient funds were set aside. Interviews for these publications in a sense served to hold officials accountable to their responsibilities because several officials wanted to show that they took KWN’s first report recommendations seriously and that they were working to implement them. After publishing each report, KWN met with institutions again to advocate for implementing new recommendations.
     KWN also has taken actions when cases of domestic violence occurred, demanding justice. For example, in the case of Diana Kastrati, a young woman murdered in broad daylight by her ex-husband, from whom she’d sought a protection order, KWN co-organized march with her family, friends, students, politicians and other actors to the court that had failed to give her a protection order in time. By lighting candles in her honor beside the court, covered by most national media, participants demonstrated strong public condemnation of court failures and domestic violence.
While KWN continues monitoring today, work related to domestic violence has shown some positive results, including a better policy framework and improved knowledge among institutions regarding domestic violence-related crimes. Lessons learned from this experience are that the “triangle of cooperation” among government, civil society (including media), and international actors is important; and that all the aforementioned steps of the advocacy cycle are important, from identifying the issue through monitoring. Without one aspect, the others are not successful.
     Rogova also participated in a panel on “Mobilizing Citizen Support through Traditional and Technological Means and Alternative Funding Sources for Advocacy Campaigns.”
     “In order for citizens to participate, it is important that they see that persons calling them to take actions are also fighting for their interests,” she said. “We as activists need to be active publicly in defending citizens’ interests for people to trust us and to become active themselves. Activism is not just having an office.”
     She mentioned several ways to mobilize citizen support. Local media, Facebook and Twitter can be used to spread information and mobilize people for demonstrations or to take action. It is important to be active with technology, she said, posting information in a timely manner and tagging people.
     Another way KWN involves people as well as secures some support is through its membership program, which encourages organizations and individuals (including men) to become members for a nominal membership fee. In return, KWN gives members services and benefits.
     Rogova also shared information about KWN’s alternative fundraising efforts. “Advocacy doesn’t always take money,” she said. “There is a lot you can do without money.” For example, organizations can involve volunteers and youth, as KWN has done for example in organizing One Billion Rising with next to no financial resources. Involving youth offers them space in leading actions as well as experience that they can use in their future careers. KWN also organizes fundraising events like parties and galas. Local businesses can provide important contributions, such as discounted or free public relations materials; or musicians or actors who donate time for awareness-raising. Officials can enable free use of public spaces and donate beverages or lunches in support of advocacy efforts.
     It is important to thank those who contribute with personal hand written notes and mentioning them in public relations materials, Rogova said. Organizations also should follow-up later to share how they used donations and the changes that citizens’ and businesses’ support contributed to. “Keep in touch by sending emails about your work, newsletter, Facebook posts and annual report so they see your accomplishments and transparent display of your finances,” Rogova said. “This will show transparency and may lead them to support your work again in the future.”