NGOs as Catalyst for Change in Advocacy and Implementation of Gender Policies

Session Report 
Ankita 

Introduction 

The discussion of Day 5 of the “Ending Gender-Based Violence Cohort 2” online National Spring School Program organized by IMPRI and the Gender Impact Studies Center brought to the importance of NGOs in policy implementation and advocacy.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Junior Martin Luther King

Professor Vibhuti Patel, who chaired the session, began by summarizing the previous discussion on gender-based violence policies. She stressed the importance of women in leadership and decision-making roles within law and criminal justice. While acknowledging the growing focus on women’s empowerment, she argued that it’s not enough.  She pointed out that holding perpetrators accountable is crucial, citing the Nirbhaya case as an example where public outcry led to consequences for the attackers.

Professor Patel raised some key questions: Why is violence targeting LGBTQ+ individuals so prevalent? Is it due to societal ignorance?  She emphasized the need for ongoing support and legal education for communities, as lack of awareness about rights allows crimes to persist. Understanding legal rights empowers people to navigate the legal system and comprehend the impact of those rights.

Finally, she discussed the double standard men often display in their treatment of women, using the example of a man behaving differently towards his wife, daughter, or sister.  She proposes that this inconsistency creates opportunities for negotiation.  Those raised in environments that value gender equality are more likely to promote it in their work and personal lives, compared to those raised with limited social awareness.

NGOs as Catalyst for Change in Advocacy and Implementation of Gender Policies

The next speaker to take the stage was Dr. Keerthi Bollineni, the president of the Vasavya Mahila Mandali.  Her leadership embodies the organization’s dedication to gender equality, social justice, and sustainable development.

Dr. Keerthi’s presentation focused on how NGOs use research and advocacy to raise awareness, influence public opinion, and push for government action on important issues.  She emphasized advocacy as a key tool, stressing the need to strategically use data and convert it into clear information. This information can then be used to design policies that improve the lives of marginalized groups. Dr. Keerthi outlined four key NGO advocacy strategies:

  1. Online Advocacy Platforms: Utilizing online tools to raise awareness and mobilize support.
  2. Pressure Group Strategy: Applying pressure on policymakers to enact change.
  3. Evidence-Based Research for Advocacy: Grounding advocacy efforts in solid research and data.
  4. Public Interest Litigation (PIL): Using legal action to advocate for systemic change.

She has described in detail all these four types of advocacies. In her presentation she has used certain scientific concepts like catalyst and catalysis. She has used this term to describe the nature of advocacy. She listed the importance of advocacy. One of the importance is that it protects the rights of the people who would otherwise be ignored or dismissed. She further adds that it is a kind of support that people get when they are facing a very crucial challenges in their life. 

Prevention of Sexual Harassment Against Women at Work Place

Dr. Keerthi highlighted the crucial role NGOs play in supporting individuals who fall through the cracks of the legal system. She provided examples like Bhanwari Devi, a woman gang-raped for opposing child marriage, and single mothers struggling to obtain passports for their children.  NGO intervention has been instrumental in introducing new laws and changing existing policies to address these issues.  She repeatedly underscored the importance of citizen voices in driving change. Only when people speak up and resist injustice can progress be made.

Impact of Bhanwari Devi’s Workplace Advocacy

The Vishaka Guidelines were created by India’s Supreme Court in 1997. The court case that led to them (Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan) highlighted the need for rules against sexual harassment at work. The court saw there weren’t enough existing laws to deal with this issue. This judgement created important protections for women against sexual harassment at work. It was a big step towards gender equality in India. The court said it was the government’s responsibility to keep workplaces safe for women.

The Vishaka Guidelines were meant to be temporary until a proper law was passed. These guidelines outlined what employers should do to prevent harassment and create a safe work environment. Later, in 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was passed. This law included many of the ideas from the Vishaka Guidelines and gave India a legal framework to address sexual harassment at work.

At the end Dr. Keerthi also raised the issue of funding of NGOs. She says that NGOs not only engage with people and organizations at implementation level work but through advocacy they also participate in the decision making process. Towards the end she quoted the words of Junior Martin Luther King which has a similar meaning to – “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Conclusion 

Dr. Keerthi’s presentation highlighted the role of NGOs in strengthening the gender policies and law making processes. She emphasizes on each individual’ s attempt on highlighting their voices and putting it forth by participating in the legal structure.

Gender equality which is also SDG 5 can be reached through NGOs through advocacy. Her presentation was not only centered around the upliftment of women but she has paid equal attention to the families of these women, the children who are also prone to violence and the weaker sections of the society. In that sense her presentation provides a very detailed and holistic picture of the functioning of NGOs and their new roles in the contemporary era. And she has challenged the rigid understanding that many have of NGOs through her presentation. 

Ankita is a research intern at IMPRI and is currently pursuing her MA in Education and Development from NIEPA.

Acknowledgement – The author would like to thank Reet Lath for sharing her valuable suggestions to enhance the report.

Read more at IMPRI :

Beyond Binaries : A Deep Dive into Tackling Sexual Harassment Through POSH Policies Harassment Against Women: A Pervasive and Multidimensional Issue