Transnational Feminist Movements to End Violence against Women (VAW): Pathways from Protest to Policy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

Violence against women is increasingly recognized as the widest human rights violation on
earth. Impacting more than 1.2 billion individuals globally, it is unparalleled in its scale, scope
and complexity. Although violence against women sits high on the policy and development
agenda of intergovernmental institutions, national governments and civil society; people
have not always considered it a crime. By interrogating this shift in attitude and awareness,
and documenting the role of feminist organising in influencing norm development, my
research aims at contributing to the design of transformative policy interventions which
tackle the structural roots of underlying prejudices.

2015 celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action. In real terms, a feminist born in 1995 has navigated the delicate transition from
adolescence into adulthood with positive political rhetoric around women's empowerment
ringing in her ears. And yet, as 2017 begins, she continues to awake each morning to
devastating stories of inequity, violence and discrimination; whether it be Russia's
decriminalisation of domestic violence, a daughter burnt in Pakistan for marrying without
her family's consent, Brock Turner's '20 minutes of action' with an unconscious woman, or
the rape and murder of 16 year-old Lucia Perez in Argentina. Headlines sit astride articles
announcing gender policy priorities and new investment in women's empowerment and
emancipation.

No matter the year, the violent act or the country, history pays testament to the role of
feminist organising in holding governments to account and challenging the gendered power
dynamics which underpin inequality. Be it in the collective proliferation of the Beijing
Platform for Action, the catalysing role played by women in the Arab Spring uprisings or the
tens of thousands of women who mobilised across Latin America to express outrage over
the death of Lucia Perez; feminist organising takes many forms. However, the question
posed by a banner at the recent Women's March Movement in Washington DC resonates:
'Why are we still fighting these same campaigns?' Why - despite the development of
oppositional consciousness and mobilisation of feminists; despite the championing by
governments and influential development donors - does violence against women (VAW)
remain an endemic part of everyday life in every corner of every continent? Perhaps it is
because, unlike the simplicity sought by fast-track development agendas, this kind of
structural change is not linear and requires the challenging of fundamental development
assumptions, the recognition of complex power relationships and the importance of
institutionalising new norms.

Rooted in the perspectives of feminists, my research hopes to identify factors which have
proven critical to navigating pathways from protest to power and highlight good practice
examples of feminist organising to inform the design of transformative policy interventions
to end VAW.

Research Question:
In what ways can transnational feminist movements influence the adoption of
transformative policy to end VAW?

Related questions
- What is the historic role of feminist organising in combatting VAW and what factors
have influenced the effectiveness of feminist interventions?
- What are the current challenges with respect to combatting VAW and how well
placed are transnational feminist organisations to respond to those challenges?

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1926352 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 29/06/2022 Nancy Saunders McLennan
 
Description As part of my 1+3 studentship, I undertook an MRes for which I was awarded a distinction. My dissertation focused on the role played by the Scottish Women's Movement in the development of the country's national domestic abuse legislation which has been hailed as transformative by policy-makers, academics and activists alike. My findings (both empirical and theoretical) were considered original and significant by those reviewing at Bristol. The subject of my dissertation research is similar to my Phd research but focused on the contribution of an autonomous feminist network at a national rather than transnational level. Despite this distinction, I anticipate that many of the findings/learning will inform my thesis.

Key MRes dissertation findings:

1. The engagement of the national women's movement was critical to the Bill's transformative content and inclusive development process. Key contributions: facilitated survivor engagement which honed content and enhanced credibility; organised consultations and focus groups which expanded the Bill's scope and diversity of respondent groups; coordinated written feedback; led alliance building between diverse stakeholder groups; facilitated the input of international expertise; presented evidence to parliamentary committees and cross-party groups regarding legislative gaps; provided practical options for strengthened legislation and innovative models for violence prevention.
2. The inclusion of survivors in the policy development process subverted top-down policy assumptions around the experience of abuse and resulted in piece of legislation which responded to local needs. Key contributions: sensitised policy-makers to the complex reality of abuse; honed policy relevance by rooting content and processes of prosecution in lived experiences of violence; empowered engaged survivors to regain agency and accelerate their healing process.
3. The Scottish women's movement demonstrated a strategic understanding of policy development processes supported by constructive and collaborative praxis grounded in advocacy, popular education, alliance building, knowledge production and service provision.
4. The engagement of additional stakeholders, such as civil society and journalists, as active agents in the Bill's development created momentum for the cross-party support, encouraged public ownership and provided an opportunity to debunk stereotypes around domestic abuse.
Exploitation Route Similar to my Phd research, a key objective of MRes dissertation research was to create policy impact and to encourage knowledge exchange between academia, policy-makers and activists working in this area. Accordingly, in addition to the dissertation thesis submitted to the university, I also produced and disseminated two research products - a policy report and a policy advocacy toolkit. Each has been designed to complement the other. Content is practical, evidence-based and developed for application in any country or world region.

1. Policy report: Targeting policy-makers and policy-advocacy groups, the report focuses on key research findings and connected policy implications. Details have been paired down to engage end-users. The report's structure have been drafted to constructively build the case regarding the benefits of engaging women's organisations. A high-level summary of the research, key findings and 12 policy implications are complemented by good practice examples to operationalise recommendations.

2. Toolkit: Targeting women's organisations (local/regional/national), service providers, activists and academics, the content has been designed to be used in tandem with the Policy report. In terms of tone and structure, it aims to be practically orient individuals and groups with policy development processes and methods of civil society influence and engagement. The research findings are weaved throughout the text with a key focus on actions to take to increase policy access and influence gendered policy outcomes. An introductory section which defines policy advocacy and outlines why women's groups should engage institutionally is followed by sections designed to support end users develop advocacy strategies and build coalitions. Sub-sections include checklists for actions, tips on developing policy recommendations, methods and means for engagement governmental and non-governmental partners, options for employing advocacy, information on how to use the accompanying policy report and concrete suggestions for engagement in formal policy development processes.

I have disseminated the research products to contacts in my government and activist network. The findings have been used by Scotland's national feminist policy organisation (Engender) to inform discussions during several committee sessions exploring the development of other policy frameworks. The findings have also been used as an advocacy tool by activists to encourage other national governments revise their national domestic abuse policy in a participatory and inclusive way. I am also discussing the possibility of co-publishing the products with UN Women. In this way, I hope the outcomes of my MRes research will contribute to the body of evidence demonstrating the potential of closer engagement between policy-makers and women's organisations in the development of this type of policy, as well as other policy areas.

I will use a similar approach in my Phd research i.e. deconstruct findings into three knowledge products: an academic article, a policy report and a policy advocacy toolkit.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/spais/people/person/nancy-s-mclennan/
 
Description Similar to my Phd research, a key objective of MRes dissertation research was to create policy impact and to encourage knowledge exchange between academia, policy-makers and activists working in this area. Accordingly, in addition to the dissertation thesis submitted to the university, I also produced and disseminated two research products - a policy report and a policy advocacy toolkit. Each has been designed to complement the other. Content is practical, evidence-based and developed for application in any country or world region. 1. Policy report: Targeting policy-makers and policy-advocacy groups, the report focuses on key research findings and connected policy implications. Details have been paired down to engage end-users. The report's structure have been drafted to constructively build the case regarding the benefits of engaging women's organisations. A high-level summary of the research, key findings and 12 policy implications are complemented by good practice examples to operationalise recommendations. 2. Toolkit: Targeting women's organisations (local/regional/national), service providers, activists and academics, the content has been designed to be used in tandem with the Policy report. In terms of tone and structure, it aims to be practically orient individuals and groups with policy development processes and methods of civil society influence and engagement. The research findings are weaved throughout the text with a key focus on actions to take to increase policy access and influence gendered policy outcomes. An introductory section which defines policy advocacy and outlines why women's groups should engage institutionally is followed by sections designed to support end users develop advocacy strategies and build coalitions. Sub-sections include checklists for actions, tips on developing policy recommendations, methods and means for engagement governmental and non-governmental partners, options for employing advocacy, information on how to use the accompanying policy report and concrete suggestions for engagement in formal policy development processes. I have disseminated the research products to contacts in my government and activist network. The findings have been used by Scotland's national feminist policy organisation (Engender) to inform discussions during several committee sessions exploring the development of other policy frameworks. They have also been used by activists as an advocacy tool to present evidence and practical examples of how other national domestic abuse policy can be revised using a participatory and inclusive approach. I am also discussing the possibility of co-publishing the products with UN Women. In this way, I hope the findings of my MRes research will contribute to the body of evidence demonstrating the potential of closer engagement between policy-makers and women's organisations in the development of this type of policy, as well as other policy areas.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services