How to engage multiple stakeholders to strengthen your movement

Written by Zia ur Rehman, AwazCDS-Pakistan

Please describe a situation when your organisation or project needed to diversify strategies to strengthen your movement. 

Due to historical and cultural barriers, SRHR education and services are largely disliked in Pakistan, even amongst victims of sexual abuse. Most civil society organisations (CSOs) do not have the understanding or capacity to tackle the challenges faced by our young people. Shrinking civic spaces and new regulations regarding the operations of CSOs have impeded movement building on SRHR issues in Pakistan and forced us to be creative and wide-reaching in our strategies.

How did you work on this problem and what changes did you make?

In order to create a powerful SRHR network across Pakistan we worked with four like-minded Provincial Partner Organisations to identify CSOs as District Partner Organisations. The best thing was that each of these members leading the district group then had increased ownership in the movement. This resulted in 40 grassroots organisations who are best placed to know their communities, government and issues all feeling invested in the movement and its success. These organisations represent women, girls, youth, people living with disabilities (PWDs), religious groups, sexual minorities and transgender communities. They were trained on body changes, puberty, risky behaviours, sexual orientations and behaviours, and societal taboos. All organisations are treated equally within the network and are governed through national and provincial steering committees, represented by the members themselves.

What did you achieve?

  • Ujala mobilised policy makers and legislatures to bring about policy reforms concerning violence against women, early-age marriages, domestic violence, violence against transgender communities, and child protection.
  • Grassroots civil society has been strengthened to create spaces and choices for young people.
  • The first ever research study on the status of SRHR in Pakistan has been launched and disseminated globally.
  • An SRHR-related agenda and demands were included in mainstream and regional party manifestos on the eve of general elections in July 2018.
  • We developed a participatory performance assessment tool to help members of the movement build their own capacity and learnings.

What did you learn from this experience?

  • Working through trusted partner organisations is cost effective, efficient, resourceful and produces better outcomes.
  • Managing partner organisations is an uphill task. However, once you develop trust and successfully build capacity, this one-time investment of energy, resources and time converts into long-term relationships and fruitful outcomes, strengthened through shared struggles.
  • Sharing resources and ideas openly and transparently brings more resources and future opportunities.
  • Regular engagement and investment in partner organisations is key to keeping a movement’s momentum. For example, we ensure that there are activities in every district monthly, along with continual advocacy efforts.

What are your top tips for someone facing the same or similar issues?

  • Be open and provide equal leadership opportunities for all members of the movement in line with their capacity and interest. One of the best ways to do this is to keep members involved with all processes, budgets, and plans. We share these across the movement so that members take real ownership over them.
  • Transparency, consistency and resilience are key to the success of any movement . We discuss these values in the initial planning meetings, and make it explicit that different organisations will get more or less support depending on their commitment to working with these ethics.
  • Build the capacity of your members with support and guidance. For example, we developed a participatory performance tool to help measure which organisations which need more capacity strengthening support. We have also run small competitions between CSOs to encourage certain disciplines such as collecting good case studies, and transparency in payments.
  • Encourage sharing and learning between CSOs. For example, some of our CSOs working on gender based violence have now learnt how to better integrate SRHR into their programming.

Zia ur Rehman, AwazCDS-Pakistan

Zia ur Rehman founded AwazCDS-Pakistan in 1995 and has been central to the success of their Ujala movement, centred around building support for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Pakistan. He is a well-known development advocate and lobbyist, community-level civil and political rights activist, writer and poet. He led the Leave No One Behind Campaign for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Pakistan, and was among the finalists for the SDG Actions Award in 2018. He has represented Pakistan and spoken on behalf Pakistani and Asian CSOs at various local, national, regional and global conferences, including at the United Nations.

AwazCDS-Pakistan website