How to maintain campaign momentum when decision makers change

Written by This guide was written collaboratively by the advocacy Task Force for Safe Abortion, a multi-disciplinary coalition of 17 civil-society organisations in Senegal

Describe a problem your organisation has faced on this subject.

The Task Force for Safe Abortion has been advocating since 2013 for the amendment of Articles 305 and 305b of the Senegalese Penal Code relating to the right to abortion.

As part of the campaign, we had mobilised 20 Parliamentarians in the National Assembly. But at the end of 2017, after fresh elections, there were major changes in the complexion of the National Assembly. We needed to establish new relationships and convince a new generation of legistators.

How did you work on and try to overcome this problem ?

Faced with these changes, we decided to work with parliamentary assistants and the secretaries of the presidents of parliamentary commissions (committees).

They were invited to values-clarification sessions to make the case for extending rights to a safe abortion. The idea was that they would be able to pass on that knowledge to parliamentarians.

As they are employees of Parliamentary groups and not elected officials, these individuals can ensure continuity, despite changes amongst the legislators themselves. At present, we are also trying to involve political parties – if we sensitise their members, we hope to develop relationships with future parliamentarians.

What did you achieve and what changes were made?

Since the legislature changed, we mobilised 80 new parliamentarians through after-work meetings, and more than 70 new parliamentarians and parliamentary assistants through workshops on the clarification of values on safe abortion.

We have also set up a committee of members of the task force and parliamentary assistants – further supporting continuity in the Assembly – to help develop our advocacy campaign, identify barriers and develop campaign strategy.

What have you learnt from this experience ?

We realised that it is important to involve all actors in the Assembly (parliamentary assistants, secretaries and chairpersons of committees, president of the Assembly, political parties), to work with the institution rather than with individuals. Among these actors, civil servants, such as parliamentary assistants, have a crucial role to play.

This experience has also shown that advocacy is done in a changing and fluid context. You must follow contexts closely and be prepared to adapt. It is often a winding path, rather than a straight line.

What are your tips for someone facing the same or a similar issue?     

Analyse the context in depth, to identify the right targets (parliamentarians, parliamentary assistants, secretaries and committee chairs, etc)

  • When the context changes, be happy to adapt your strategy to pursue emerging opportunities
  • Work with institutions and not just individuals – the National Assembly is an entity that mobilises many actors who can help to ensure continuity
  • Work with officials who guarantee the continuity of the administration

Did you use any external resources to help you solve this issue that you would recommend to other organisations?

This guide was written collaboratively by the advocacy Task Force for Safe Abortion, a multi-disciplinary coalition of 17 civil-society organisations in Senegal

The advocacy Task Force for Safe Abortion is a multi-disciplinary coalition of 17 civil society organisations from Senegalese civil society, working to inform decision-makers and the broader public about the risks of unsafe abortion.

In particular, the task force advocates for the law relating to reproductive health, the penal code and medical regulations to harmonise with article 14 of the Maputo Protocol, which was ratified by the Government of Senegal in 2004.

Task Force for Safe Abortion