By Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi
Rabat – This is the second in a series of four opinion pieces on “The ‘Sixteens’ of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in Morocco.”
In the first part of this series, we looked at 16 of a flurry of activities being organized that won’t help amend Morocco’s Draft Law 103-13 on violence against women, currently before the House of Councilors for review. Given that this is one of the last steps in the legislative process before it gets enacted, it is critical that civil society now prioritize actions that will lead to much-needed amendments to the Draft Law.
The following is a list of 16 high impact actions that can enhance efforts to create real change, with the goal of convincing the Councilors to amend Draft Law 103-13 on VAW and enact a law that will protect women, punish offenders, and establish State responsibility.
1. Direct advocacy to the Councilors.
In addition to (2) Direct advocacy to Councilors, and (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14), (15) and (16), Direct advocacy to Councilors.
By unpacking “Direct advocacy to the Councilors,” people can be encouraged to act by:
2. Engaging directly with Councilors on Draft Bill 103-13, including
• telephoning them, or sending e-mails, text messages, postcards, letters or petitions;
• in-person discussions by visiting their offices, attending events they will be at, inviting them to public events or to visit your community, requesting to testify in front of a Parliamentary Committee, or holding a public town hall meeting. Encounters with Councilors can be formal or informal, organized or spontaneous. Be prepared to be reactive and seize unexpected opportunities when they arise.
3. Advocating for amendments to Draft Law 103-13 requires a clear, consistent, and constant message repeated continuously over time.
4. Advocating for amendments to Draft Law 103-13 through messages:
• describing the importance of the problem with specific facts
• presenting concrete proposals for changes to the language of the Draft Law, and
• making a direct request for that person to make a specific commitment to do something.
For example, “In our community 12% of women report being victims of rape by their husbands, but when they seek help for the abuse to stop, the authorities say they can do nothing for them. We want the laws amended to criminalize marital rape. Can we count on you to vote to amend Draft Law 103-13 to say that rape is a crime regardless of the author’s relationship with the victim?”
5. Conducting direct advocacy to the Councilors in person, since at this point in the process they are the primary target that can make the necessary amendments to Draft Bill 103-13, or to secondary targets that have and are willing to exercise their influence over the Councilors. For an official list to determine who your Councilor is, as well as who the other influential or sympathetic Councilors are, However, achieving meaningful amendments to Draft Law 103-13 will require more than a handful of urban NGOs advocating directly to the Councilors. Articles 14 and the 15 of the Constitution ensure the rights of individual citizens to conduct advocacy to their representatives. To the extent that NGOs and coalitions have a role to play in advocacy, it is first and foremost in mobilizing individual citizens and groups of citizens in local communities to express themselves directly to decision-makers.
A broad-based, organic movement based on citizen-centered advocacy for reforms to Draft Law 103-13 will require significant shifts in practice among civil society actors, shifts involving information, documentation, sharing, and mass mobilization.
6. Collecting contact information for the Councilors. Given the lack of an official, publically accessible list of contact information for the Councilors, this will take on-line research and active outreach to contacts to be able to obtain Councilor’s individual e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Many Councilors have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, which are other good places to start.
7. Tracking the Councilors’ schedule and upcoming votes. Unfortunately, the on-line information on the House of Councilors’ calendar and steps in the legislative process is not as updated and detailed as it could be, so this will need to be one of the questions asked in direct communications with people. For example, “when will the Justice, Human Rights and Legislation Commission start to review Draft Law 103-13? What is the timeline and process for that?”
8. Documenting all communications with Councilors through written meeting minutes and video, to record necessary information for on-going strategy analysis and development, as well as to hold people accountable for what they have said and commit to doing.
9. Taking note of who among the Councilors is present at meetings or responsive to communications, and thank them in person and publically. Take note as well the names of those non responsive to your outreach, or absent the day of meetings and votes, in order to hold them accountable. For example, the Draft Bill 103-13 was passed in the House of Representatives Justice, Legislation and Human Rights Commission by only nine votes out of 44 members, the rest being absent the day of the vote. Likewise, only 105 out of 395 MPs were present for the plenary vote on the bill. Let’s try to avoid this rate of absenteeism with the Councilors.
10. Sharing widely on a regular basis with other NGOs and activists information obtained about Councilors’ contact information, schedules and voting calendars.
11. Widely reporting back to the people in your communities – women beneficiaries of your programs, public actors, and other stakeholders – through Feedback loops on the outcomes of efforts of direct communications with the Councilors – what information was gained, as well as what the Councilors said or promised to do.
12. Sharing widely in advance with other NGOs, with the press, with women beneficiaries, with local public actors, information on upcoming direct advocacy opportunities with Councilors so that others can participate as well, either by contributing input or attending in person.
13. Sharing widely after direct advocacy information and outcomes of communications, including minutes and other written documentation. Effective advocacy requires that everyone has the most updated and exact information, small or big, positive or negative, to avoid working at cross purposes and to make public the commitments and promises made by Councilors in order to hold them accountable.
14. Creating broad communities of contact by expanding current WhatsApp, Facebook and e-mail contact lists for widespread and timely sharing of information and updates.
15. Asking other organizations and activists to share the information through their own social media and e-mail lists to reach larger groups of people.
16. Mobilising other people and enlarging the community of people to also conduct direct advocacy themselves to the Councilors. Effective advocacy requires large numbers and a diversity of people participating. Other people in your communities, including women beneficiaries and local public actors, can be encouraged to conduct direct advocacy as well, even if it is just by making one phone call or sending one email.
These 16 actions can contribute to moving the cause forward, through diversity, inclusiveness and solidarity. They are about transforming citizens’ relationships with elected representatives like the Councilors. Real advocacy requires building a movement, not a monopoly on either information or on access to decision-makers.
To be continued: The next part of this series will propose 16 much needed, specific amendments to Draft Law 103-13. Stay tuned!