How Are We Inspiring Grassroots Action to End Violence Against Girls and Women?

How Are We Inspiring Grassroots Action to End Violence Against Girls and Women?

In our recent interview with immigrant rights leader Pramila Jayapal, we asked her: Women have long been at the center of the immigrant rights movement, and you chose actively put them at the center of your campaign. What strategic decisions did you have to make –around data, public policy, resources, etc.–in order to put women at the center? Read this blog to hear what Pramila had to say and join the dialogue about connecting her thoughts to the movement to end violence against girls and women.


Here’s what Pramila had to say:

Actually, I think women have and have not been at the center of the immigrant rights movement.  They have in that we have a vibrant movement with strong women leading many of the prominent immigrant rights organizations.  Women, as our campaign now talks about, also make up more than half of immigrants to the United States.  But the truth is that both inside and outside of the immigrant rights movement, we had not built the case for the gender lens on immigration policy.  As someone deeply engaged in the immigrant rights movement and a feminist myself, I’ll say honestly that we were a little lazy.  And while there were many of us women leading organizations, the strategy we put together was often a strategy for the mainstream.  We didn’t think about the benefits, opportunities or NEEDS of putting a gender lens on immigration.  There was a lot of great work done by specific parts of the women’s movement—specifically, the domestic violence, trafficking, asylum groups had done fabulous work.  And yet, it often felt like disconnected from the “real” immigration reform debate.  And it showed—because women across the country (immigrant and non-immigrant), who should have been really active on this issue, weren’t.

So, our work started with doing a real gender analysis on immigration policy today and on immigration reform proposals of the past.  There was lots of data out there on different pieces but no-one had really put them together in a coherent way that mirrored the framework of how the immigrant rights movement was talking about immigration reform.  We did that work first: built a real gender analysis that we could share so that we could start to make a deeper and stronger case for why immigration reform is a women’s issue.

We also had to get at the fact that many women didn’t see the issue as a women’s issue. So we decided to do some message development and testing. That cost money but we had great resources in Lake Research Partners and Anat Shenkar’s work. We interviewed key leaders in the women’s movement, and looked at previous polling.  We used a woman’s voice, defying the general misconception that it is always more powerful to use a man’s voice in polling and message delivery. We got amazing statistics!  Women were moveable on the issue! We just needed to talk to them, engage them, direct our messages and our messengers to them.

On resources, it was always a balance, but we always were determined that the campaign should be more than just policy analysis and messaging. We wanted to inspire grassroots action, build leadership among immigrant and non-immigrant women on the issue, and fundamentally shift the messaging from one of women as victims to women as contributors.  We wanted to build a strong multi-racial movement that combined immigration and feminism and prepared us not only for this fight but for many into the future!  That’s why things like civil disobedience and escalation were such a strong part of our campaign and inspired so much connection, resolve and courage—along with direct work with the Senate and House to craft smart policy that included women.

Making Connections to the Movement to End Violence Against Girls and Women

We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts: How have individuals and organizations within this movement to end violence against girls and women inspired grassroots action? Where have we seen powerful examples of this kind of organizing?

Please share your thoughts via a comment below.

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