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close this bookSustainable Development and Persons with Disabilities: The Process of Self-Empowerment (ADF, 1995, 117 p.)
close this folderSection III: Lobbying, networking and building alliances
close this folderChapter 10: Strategies for lobbying, networking and building alliances
View the documentPWDs are their own principal change agents
View the documentLobbying, advocacy and networking
View the documentBroad alliances
View the documentAction guidelines

Lobbying, advocacy and networking

We have added one more concept, that of "advocacy." Sometimes the terms "lobbying" and "advocacy" are used to mean the same thing -namely, influencing individuals and institutions to support your cause. Strictly speaking, however, lobbying is a parliamentary concept. Historically, it arose as a means provided to ordinary citizens, or pressure groups, to meet in the "lobby" of a parliament to "catch" members of parliament before they got into the assembly to debate on legislative matters. You "lobby" them to support your interest in the legislative process. Advocacy, on the other hand, comes from the legal background. You have advocates (or lawyers) to fight your case in court. No matter. Both concepts now have broader applications than their historical origins would suggest.

Networking is a different ball game. It refers to groups and/or individuals coming together to advocate common causes, to share experiences, and to programme joint strategies of action. It can be done at various levels - local, national, regional, continental or global. It is very much in fashion these days.

The Workshop in Entebbe discussed issues related to lobbying and networking at great length. Rather than going into details, we shall summarise the issues schematically, for they are self-explanatory.

First, the objectives. Lobbying and networking for what? The Entebbe meeting identified the following objectives:

The Entebbe Workshop Recommended that representative groups (organisations of disabled persons) should lobby and work with their Ministry of Education in their respective countries to include disability issues in school curricula in order to raise awareness among the younger generation.

As can be seen, these are some of the issues that have been discussed in the earlier chapters. They are aimed at self-empowerment of the people with disabilities, and at equalising the conditions and opportunities for the disabled people to engage in activities that would make them self-reliant and self-esteemed.

The next question was: whom do we lobby? To whom do we target the advocacy of our interests?

Lobbying and Networking for What?

For knowledge and information

For equal rights to jobs and education

For participation in policy making

For Resources: land raw materials skills training appropriate tools & equipment

Whom do we Lobby?

Local Community

Government Departments/Ministries


· local
· international

Donor Agencies

The Workshop identified the following:

Uganda has a special representation in the Constituent Assembly elected in 1994, but no special disability act. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has a disability act, but as yet, not a specially elected delegate of the disabled in the Parliament.

These too have been discussed in earlier chapters. The central agency here is the parliament. That is the body that makes laws. Without appropriate enabling legislation, the struggle of PWDs becomes extremely hard. So that's where the lobbying has to be most intense. Two strategies were discussed in this regard, not mutually exclusive but complementary. One is to have the interests of the disabled people specially represented in the parliament, and the second is to have a special disability act. Both strategies have merit, and need to be pursued vigorously by PWD lobbists. The ILO has carried out a study of different types of disability acts that various states in Africa have passed. They are beyond the scope of this chapter, but PWD organisations need to study the document and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of disability legislative acts.

Of course, the parliament is the single most important institution to lobby. But it is not the only one. Much action that affects the lives of the disabled people take place at the community or local level. That's also where prejudices are sometimes most deeply embedded in what passes for "culture" or "tradition." Therefore, a proactive strategy needs to be worked out by concerned PWD organisations at that level. We shall not elaborate, but there is obviously a need also to lobby government departments and the civil service, IGOs and (NGOs) that work with the PWDs, and donor agencies.

How do we lobby them? was the next question. What methods must we use to influence the above institutions? And the answer identified the following:

This is a continuum that gets more "radical" as it moves from its left end item to its right end one. The "softest" approach would be to provide information to the various organisations that are being lobbied. The most radical approach would be to demonstrate, to get down to the streets with placards and banners. In between are intermediary tactics. Clearly, the particular tactic chosen will depend on the issue at stake, its gravity and urgency. For most routine kind of Work, a newsletter is the most appropriate instrument. It is also an important medium for networking, and for keeping members informed about the activities of the organisation, what happens in other parts of the world, and to share experiences. The Entebbe Workshop made a strong recommendation for the disabled peoples assembled to start their own newsletter.

How do we Lobby?

Through Information Exchange and Publicity (newsletter)

Through Awareness Campaigns

Through Professional Consultation

Through Demonstration

The next question was: At what levels do the PWDs operate? This was addressed largely to the issue of networking rather than lobbying, but of course, it is relevant to lobbying and advocacy as well.

All levels are important, depending on the issues at stake. Also there are no walls separating the different levels; they interact and influence each other.

An initiative can start from a local level and move upwards. Alternatively, it could start at the international level and move down to the regional, national and local levels. For example, much of the conceptual and organizational initiatives for the radical approach to disability in Africa came from the Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) which then encouraged the formation of regional organisations such as SAFOD in Southern Africa and PAFOD as a Pan-African organisation.

The Entebbe Workshop made specific recommendations appealing African governments to:

· formulate legislation for equalization of opportunities for PWDs in order to ensure their full participation and integration into society; and

· ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 159 on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Concerning People with Disabilities.

The workshop also recommended that the disability movement should lobby and advocate for its representation at national and other levels of legislatures.

On Networking, the workshop recommended that there be "focal points" in the participating countries to promote exchange of information through appropriate channels. Such information could also be fed into the proposed newsletter.