Organizing & Alliance-building

 

JASS builds the untapped potential power of women’s numbers organized with a unified agenda for solving problems and bringing big changes.  

Rooted in women’s concrete demands for justice, JASS promotes and reinforces local-to-global organizing to build broad, well-informed, flexible alliances that are responsive to human rights urgencies and opportunities for action.

For JASS, organizing is a continuous and empowering process that brings different women and organizations together to identify critical injustices and act collectively to solve them. The process, led by our partners and the women we train and accompany, is not formulaic but involves timely face-to-face gatherings sustained by online communication and coordination (see Equipping Activists). Workshops can include story-telling, dialogues, sharing dreams, and humor as well as skill-building, leadership development, power analysis, agenda setting, strategizing, and action. Designed to affirm and empower each individual, the program hones their capacities and confidence as activists, organizers and movement leaders while bringing them together as a group. These experiences provide the glue and foundation for a democratic organizational structure.  

As a movement-support organization, JASS is known for bringing together women and organizations that have often never collaborated before. Being honest brokers and facilitators, we encourage trust and solidarity while  bridging differences across identity, issue focus, location, age, etc.

We believe that groups, networks and alliances that come together around critical issues they identify - as opposed to those formed in response to pre-established agendas are stronger and more sustainable. Because the agenda and action is “owned” by the women and directly related to their lives, taking action is more empowering and relevant. 

"Organizers engage people in discerning why they should act to change their world – their values – and how they can act to change it – their strategy." ~ Marshall Ganz

The scale and shape of organizing and alliance-building processes, and our role in them, varies depending on the context and issue. They can start small in terms of numbers, geographic reach, or complexity, expanding over time. In Malawi, JASS works with partners to organize grassroots women and their networks around a range of issues related to poverty, HIV/AIDS,  stigma and prejudice. Initially through local organizing efforts in rural communities, women pushed decision makers to get mobile clinics and access to land and fertilizers. Today, the organizing is national. Women prepare to kick off a country-wide campaign to fight stigma and violence against HIV+ women and for better treatment options. 

In Malawi, our work is an example of what social scientists call horizontal networks. In other parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, JASS catalyzes similar organizing efforts, many with young women that have led to the creation of new organizations, like the Cambodian Young Women’s Network (CYWEN) and Generation Alive in Zambia.

While this local and national organizing is essential, we believe that women must organize at regional and international levels to address shared challenges and engage institutions that can pressure governments to follow through on their human rights commitments (see Context & Moment). This kind of organizing from local-to-regional level builds vertical networks. 

In Mesoamerica, for example, JASS and our partners are organizing women and organizations affiliated with different social movements – like labor rights, environmental, indigenous and LGBT activists. The Mesoamerica Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative, a partnership with national, regional and international organizations that JASS coordinates, began through conversations and fact-finding missions among different women activists facing high levels of violence, and evolved into a regional network.