The word “advocate” shares linguistic roots with the word for “lawyer” in several European languages, with the common meaning of “someone who pleads the case of another”. Advocacy work - representing the interests of their target group - is an important role for many NGOs. It should not, however, be conflated with “lobbying”, which has a narrower meaning referring to one type of advocacy aiming at specific influences on political decisions. The latter primarily occurs by means of direct contact and dialogue with political decision-makers and people close to them, such as their staff.
The term “advocacy work” needs to be understood as encompassing a much broader field of processes which third parties engage in to communicate and reinforce the positions and interests of disadvantaged groups. Care needs to be taken to ensure this representation of their interests does not stop them speaking up for themselves: it has to be based on trust, credibility and common aims. This political advocacy includes lobbying work. Advocacy work aims to influence the actions taken by both governmental institutions and other influential players from the business, political and civil society sectors.
For medica mondiale, advocacy work is an important approach which complements its local programmes of direct support for traumatised women by drawing attention to women’s rights. Within its advocacy work, medica mondiale educates decision-makers on the background to and underlying causes of sexualised wartime violence and calls for public debate on wartime rape. In this way, pressure is put on politicians and organisations, motivating them to take action.
In Afghanistan, for example, medica mondiale exercises direct influence on the police and judicial sectors by running training courses for their staff on the topic of sexualised violence.