Throughout the last 17 years, one of ARROW’s key strategies has been to link the realities of marginalised, grassroots women with national-level advocacy interventions carried out by our civil society partners, as well as through joint engagements between ARROW and its partners at regional and international arenas. We do so because we have experienced the positive influence that such a strategy is able to achieve, when improvements in international or national policy are informed by local-level realities, or when translating international commitments made by nation-states to rights-based changes in the lives of marginalised women.
Despite the disappointing progress towards the targets of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD POA) 15 years hence, this international document has been pivotal to the women’s movements’ struggles to achieve marginalised women’s health and rights, and specifically, their access to improved sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
While the much-celebrated Obama administration has done well in repealing the Mexico City Policy of the Bush era, the Asia-Pacific region continues to experience a growing wave of opposition to women’s health and rights. This opposition is well-funded, well-organised and solidly linked from the grassroots to national and international decision-making processes. On the other hand, civil society and the champions of the marginalised tend to have less ‘advocacy mobility’—their influence is curtailed by various kinds of legal restrictions, financial constraints, the limiting project-cycle approach to funding and the perception that civil society advocacy and influence at all levels needs to be underpinned by a deep and unwavering solidarity and a spirit of cooperation. Such political idealism has sometimes prevented the forging of more practical collaborations between civil society actors in the face of the growing influence of conservative actors in the international arena. We need to find ways to work together to more effectively influence policies and programmes and create impact, even when we do not share in every instance a common political understanding.