Association el Amane pour le Développement de la Femme (EL AMANE) in Morocco built grassroots support by organizing 161 consultative meetings in 35 cities and villages. They engaged over 1,800 women in order to collect the recommendations that were included in a draft law to prevent domestic violence. Based on the statistics of civil society organizations working in support centers for women, nine out of ten women are subject to violence perpetrated by their husbands. This incredible level of abuse experienced by women resulted in EL AMANE’s decision to lobby lawmakers to institute a law criminalizing domestic violence.
In undertaking this effort, EL AMANE established contacts with nine (9) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the national level, with whom they trained 94 facilitators from 39 grassroots NGOs on conducting focus groups with women coming from different socio-economic backgrounds. Then these trained facilitators organized 161 consultative meetings in 35 cities and villages which engaged 1,836 women. The results of this process were collected in recommendations that were included in a draft law. These recommendations were summarized in a document which included drawings prepared by the participants in the consultative meetings. They were assisted by professional painters, which helped to illustrate the kinds of domestic violence the women experienced.
With the draft law in hand, EL AMANE and the partner NGOs conducted meetings with decision makers which were accompanied by a media campaign and town hall meetings aimed at informing the general public about the lobbying process and the importance of having a law preventing domestic violence.
Through raising awareness in many local communities and the lobbying process, they garnered enough media attention to cover most events of the process.
The main obstacle encountered was the ability to meet with the governmental and parliamentarian stakeholders. However, with the continuous collective advocacy effort, it was possible to overcome this barrier. Although the law had not been passed at the time this was written, a promise to support the draft law on the prevention of domestic violence was made on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. Advocacy efforts are still ongoing in order to get the bill voted and implemented. In spite of the lack of passage of the bill, modest improvements have been witnessed on the field level. For instance, public safe houses that host women victims of violence have been created. However, a continuing challenge remains that those safe houses are located in big cities and remain limited.
El Amane was founded in 2002 by a group of young women in Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, a disenfranchised neighborhood in Marrakech. El Amane provides rights education and operates support centers to serve Morocco’s most vulnerable populations: poor women, single mothers, sex workers and child servants. El Amane educates women about their rights and how to defend them, facilitates direct access to the legal system, and works with other human rights organizations to inform policymakers about continuing violations of women’s rights.
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While the primary aim of this tactic was to influence national legislation on violence against women, it also offers a way to spark a broader conversation about a human rights issue that may not be openly discussed in society. EL AMANE also engages artists to work with victims to illustrate their situations, which is a unique way to document human rights violations and build empathy for the impacts on individual women and their families.