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  The Feminist Principle of Advocacy



The Feminist Principle of Advocacy

The feminist principle of advocacy is central in our efforts toward an equitable and inclusive world for women and men. Through advocacy we apply our understanding and analysis of the issues affecting women as a call for improving our social, legal, political, economic and cultural status.

The feminist principle of advocacy means supporting or recommending a position or course of action that has been informed by women’s experiences in our efforts to bring about equality and inclusion. Advocacy may take place through a variety of actions and strategies, ranging from demonstrations and protests to meetings and dialogue.

As women, we enjoy a rich history of feminist advocacy and activism that affects our lives and choices today. In the early twentieth century, suffragists in this province rallied, marched, demonstrated, wrote letters, attended meetings and circulated petitions until women won the right to vote. Feminist advocates contributed to many other positive changes for women on a national level, such as in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legalized access to abortion, pay equity and sexual assault law reform. Today women are recognized as persons and citizens with access to education, employment, women’s centres and shelters. These and other hard-won
victories reflect the successful advocacy efforts of our feminist foremothers.

“I can vote, have my own business, attend university, and own property . . . because there have been changes in the world. These changes did not just “evolve” or occur as a result of “new technologies.” They were the result of women – feminists – making themselves and their beliefs into immovable objects around which the system had to move and thereby forcing those radical changes.”

~ Susan Hollett


Equality-seeking organizations aim to improve the lives of all women. To accomplish this, we need to balance and integrate our day-to-day service delivery work with our role as advocates and activists. Providing services to individual women deepens our collective understanding of the needs and concerns in our community.
Hearing first hand about women’s experiences helps identify gaps or barriers that must be addressed, as well as measures that work well which must be continued or expanded. This knowledge prepares us to challenge policies and practices that contribute to women’s inequality and exclusion.

Service work is valuable and necessary, and addresses the immediate needs of women. We cannot prevent or eliminate systemic barriers to women’s equality unless we complement our service work with advocacy on a broader level. For example, many feminist organizations provide lay counselling services to victims of violence. We listen to women’s stories and assist by offering information and referrals, or accompaniment to health and legal proceedings. Through providing these services, we may conclude that a major issue is the lack of consistency in treating and examining victims of sexual assault in hospital emergency rooms. We would use our
understanding and awareness of this issue, as informed by women’s experiences, to advocate for the creation of a provincial health policy to adequately respond to victims of sexual assault.

Effective advocacy work also means learning which strategy to use and when to use it to bring about change. Advocacy may be practiced in any number of ways by a wide range of women and organizations. For example, women working within government advocate for equality by applying a gender-based analysis to policy development, while community activists hold a demonstration to draw public attention and support to the same issue. Women in the media advocate by giving our issues and concerns fair coverage in the news. Equality-seeking groups are involved in a variety of advocacy work. Examples within this province include demonstrating in Take Back the Night Marches, gathering at December 6 th Vigils, participating in legislative reviews, Royal Commissions and public consultations, holding press conferences, lobbying government for new or improved policies, and consulting and strategizing with other women and organizations.

As feminist organizations, we need to take every opportunity to share and strategize with each other in order to advocate for equality and inclusion. Feminism and advocacy are intricately linked, for our common strength is in our ability to take the personal to the political. Whether we choose to hold a meeting or organize a rally, all
efforts are valuable in our quest to improve women’s social, legal, political, economic and cultural status.


The Feminist Principle of Advocacy

Sandra is a single mother who has come to your equality-seeking organization for assistance. She
has had to spend this month’s budget preparing her children to go back to school. According
to the Human Resources and Employment policy, she is not eligible for income support. Sandra is extremely stressed and does not know how she will manage to pay her rent and feed her family this month.

  1. What services does Sandra need from our organization?
  2. What could our organization do to advocate for Sandra? For other women in similar situations?
  3. What does our organization gain when we provide both services and advocacy to women?


Workshop Questions

The Feminist Principle of Advocacy

  • What does advocacy mean to me as a member of a feminist organization? What will I need
    to feel comfortable in my role as an advocate?
  • What does our organization gain by doing advocacy work? What do we risk by not doing advocacy
  • What does the feminist principle of advocacy mean to the work of our equality-seeking organization?
    How do we practice our advocacy role?


source: PACSW pdf document (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)


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Page last updated July 20, 2003