Men and women take part in a workshop together in the city of Santa Rosa de Copan.

Chapter 5: Advocacy and Policy Development

Men and women take part in a workshop together in the city of Santa Rosa de Copan.


  • To create advocacy opportunities (or take advantage of existing opportunities) for women to apply their leadership skills
  • To influence the development and approval of policies that increase women’s access to productive resources


Women’s participation in policy development processes of different types has been found to improve governance, resource allocation and sustainability (Agarwal 2009, 2010; Acharya and Gentle 2006; de Vries and Sutarti 2006; Komarudin et al 2008). It is not only good for governance, but it also has positive impacts on women, who are able to exercise voice and agency. The more opportunities women have for engaging in these processes, the more confident and skilled they become.

Participation and inclusion are central principles of this component of the GAPP Approach. Women and men participate in different organizations and institutions, like the RMM, the ICR, and the municipal governments. This participation can take on different forms (Table 4). The aim is to move them from simply being members in groups (i.e., nominal participation) to having a voice and be able to influence decisions (i.e., interactive participation). This requires a dual focus of creating opportunities for women in the RMM to exercise their negotiation skills and building the capacity of other stakeholders to understand how processes can be more inclusive. Over the course of the activities promoted here, women in the RMM move from operating in their women-only groups to launching public campaigns and advancing their interests within mixed-sex and mainstream organizations.

Typology of Participation

Nominal participation Membership in the group
Passive participation Being informed of decision ex post facto;
or attending meetings and listening to decision making without speaking up
Consultative participation Being asked an opinion on specific matters without a guarantee of influencing decisions
Activity specific participation Being asked (or volunteering) to undertake specific tasks
Active participation Expressing opinions, whether or not solicited, or taking initiatives of other sorts
Interactive (empowering) participation Having a voice in, and influence on, the group’s discussion

The activities here are designed so that women in the RMM engage in political processes with and alongside other civil society actors to develop policy and budgetary measures that meet their needs. These require that the women cooperate and negotiate with other civil society actors and public officials who have their own interests. Women need to draw on a range of skills to be able to participate effectively, speak in public and lobby so that they are able to effectively advocate for gender-responsive policies. These activities were added to the GAPP Project in the second year but proved to be some of the most important elements of the project. Many women cited the advocacy and public speaking opportunities as critical in the development of their leadership skills (Amariles Erazo et. al. 2016). Learning how the local government operates, how to network with key stakeholders, and being given the opportunity to speak directly to government officials were often cited as being important opportunities for the women.


Identify Opportunities for Women to Exercise their Leadership and Advocacy Skills

The first activity in this component of the GAPP Approach is about identifying opportunities for what Cornwall and Goetz (2005) call “political apprenticeship.” The term refers to experience women gain through their activities as part of political parties, volunteering and associations. Women’s participation in these organizations allow them to develop and apply a range of leadership skills. These are not formal training sessions but “learn-by-doing” activities. Projects can design a number of activities but must also be open to taking advantage of opportunities for advocacy as the context around them changes (Box 9). These activities should link directly to the skills learned and also have a clear objective, for example securing funding for women’s initiatives under the five percent earmark.

The GAPP team developed a number of community-based events where the RMM and others could share lessons and advances of their work with other community actors. These events include Knowledge Fairs and the development and presentation of women’s economic initiatives to municipal governments.

Knowledge Fairs (Ferias de Conocimiento)

The Knowledge Fairs are organized events used to disseminate information to a large audience. They have been used in different ways, for example by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers to disseminate research at annual meetings and by the GAPP project as municipal-wide awareness raising campaigns. Knowledge Fairs can be organized around specific themes and can include music, community theatre and information stands (Box 10).

In the GAPP project, the Knowledge Fairs were organized and led by the women in the RMMs. The objectives of the fairs were to:

  • Provide an opportunity for women and men to disseminate the results of their learning and display economic initiatives
  • Raise awareness and generate an interactive discussion around specific gender-related issues.

The Knowledge Fairs provided women in the RMM an opportunity to apply the skills acquired in the different capacity building activities. The women of the RMM worked together with other municipal actors and organizations to develop workshops and theatrical shows around specific themes. Local vendors, in some cases the women who received funding for their economic initiatives, had stands where they sold their products. During the GAPP project three (3) Knowledge Fairs were held, one in each of the following municipalities: Tambla, Gualcinse, and Candelaria, with the participation of men and women from other municipalities.

As a capacity development activity the Knowledge Fairs strengthen women’s skills in project planning, public speaking and advocacy. Women from the RMM work together with representatives from other civil society and government institutions, like the ICR and the OMM, establishing an organizing committee to coordinate and manage the event. Women participate in press conferences or lead presentations throughout the day. It requires team work among the women of the RMM that is leading the effort.

As an awareness raising event, the Knowledge Fairs (See Summary of KF) are used to disseminate information about specific issues. In the GAPP project, the themes included:

  • Gender, food security and prevention of gender-based violence (Candelaria);
  • Gender, education, and nutritional food security (Gualcinse); and,
  • Gender and education (Tambla).

The Fairs included information stands about these different topics, as well as an information stand about masculinities. The public exposure led to an increased awareness about the efforts of the RMM, and the women who have participated report that they are perceived differently in their community as well.

Development and Presentation of Women’s Initiatives

(See RMM Project Erandique, RMM Project Piraera, Project Proposal Template English)

One of the main objectives of the GAPP project was to secure funding for women’s economic activities from the municipal governments. Women in the RMM developed project proposals, which they presented to the governments at one of the annual town hall meetings. The initiatives were largely developed by groups of 10 – 15 women members of the RMM. Together, the women developed a project proposal which they presented for funding to the local government.

Over the course of GAPP, 165 projects were approved and funded by the local governments: 66 in Mancomunidad SOL and 99 Mancomunidad CAFEG (Table 5). An additional 15 projects received funding from other donors. Of the total 165 projects, 99 were for agricultural economic initiatives which included investments for plant nurseries (e.g., for coffee production), investments in maize and bean production, chicken coops, grain storage, dairy activities, and irrigation equipment. The actual number of agriculture-related activities funding is higher if the small-scale milling operations and coffee roasting operations are included. Other requests were for small scale enterprises including beauty salons and grocers, as well as requests for a women’s center. The total amount of public funding approved over the life of project for women’s agricultural initiatives came to $81,824.33 and the women’s groups contributed an additional $34,106.91 in cost-share to the initiatives.

Build Relationships between Different Actors.

Women’s ability to develop coalitions with other groups and stakeholders is a key element of achieving and sustaining gender equality efforts (Domingo et. al. 2015). This is not surprising. There is always resistance to change; some people and organizations are bound to feel threatened by it or lose resources and power. Advocating for policies to support gender equality is a direct challenge to the status quo. And while evidence suggests that in the long-term women and men benefit from gender equality policies, in the short-term some women and some men may lose out. Finding allies is important for initiating change and ensuring that change is sustained.

The coalitions that the RMM built with other stakeholders were cited as an important element of success in the GAPP project (Amariles Erazo et. al. 2016). Two relationships in particular were cited: between the RMM and the OMM, and between the RMM and the ICR.

The relationship between RMM and the OMM was mutually supportive. The OMM provides one channel through which the RMM can access the local government. For example, the OMM can advocate for women from the RMM to participate in various meetings and consultative processes with the local government. The presence of the RMM also provides a vehicle for the OMM to reach rural women. In some municipalities the OMM already existed and the RMM and the OMM learned to work cooperatively. In other municipalities, like Tambla, the OMM was created as a result of the advocacy efforts of the RMM.

The links between the RMM and the ICR were fewer but nonetheless important. Some women of the RMM were also members of the ICR. This provided additional opportunities for them to use their leadership skills and share their knowledge. This was useful during the development of the gender equality policies. More broadly, the RMM and the ICR represent two important civil society actors in the municipalities that through collaboration can work together to advance other community interests.

Number of projects funded by municipality Number of agriculture projects funded by the municipality Total Amount of cost-share by women’s groups (US Dollars) Total Amount of Municipal Funding (US Dollars) Total Amount of Other funding (US Dollars) Total

(US Dollars)

% of total funded by municipality % of total contributed by women’s groups


Gualcinse 38 21  $ 15,268.71  $ 12,954.05  $ 46,870.90  $ 75,093.65 17% 20%
Candelaria 25 15  $ 10,700.22  $ 8,446.39  $ 69,190.37  $ 88,336.98 10% 12%
Erandique 13 10  $ 3,676.15  $ 3,369.80  $ 46,520.79  $ 53,566.74 6% 7%
Piraera 23 20  $ 1,766.00  $ 16,638.34  $ 9,846.83  $ 28,251.16 59% 6%
Sub-Total 99 66  $  31,411.07  $  41,408.58  $      172,428.88  $        245,248.53 17% 13%


Tambla 20 20  $ 2,083.15  $ 29,452.95  $ 9,343.54  $ 40,879.65 72% 5%
Valladolid 16 8  $ 525.16  $ 1,925.60  $ 4,026.26  $ 6,477.02 30% 8%
Tomala 5 1  $ –  $ 5,689.28  $ 875.27  $ 6,564.55 87% 0%
Guarita 15 3  $ 87.53  $ 3,129.10  $ 437.64  $ 3,654.27 86% 2%
San Juan Guarita 10 1  $ –  $ 218.82  $ –  $ 218.82 100% 0%
Sub-Total 66 33  $ 2,695.84  $ 40,415.75  $ 14,682.71  $ 57,794.31 70% 5%
Total 165 99  $ 34,106.91  $ 81,824.33  $ 187,111.60  $ 303,042.84 27% 11%

Strengthen gender-responsive and participatory governance processes.

Participatory governance refers to a process through which decision-makers actively engage affected constituents in the development of policies and programs. To be successful, participatory governance processes must create an inclusive work environment in which individuals have a voice. Trust, equity, respect for differing views and commitment to collaboration are all key characteristics of the process. In the GAPP project, these processes were used to develop policies at the local government level and within the ICR that integrate attention to gender issues. Although the goal of these activities is to produce gender-responsive policies, the activities here focused on strengthening the capacities of the individuals and institutions involved in this process.

With public institutions: In Honduras, some degree of participatory governance is enshrined in the Law of Municipalities, which requires town hall meetings to be held on a regular basis throughout the year. This is largely a consultative process and does not necessarily lead to the co-development of policies and programs. To increase the degree of participation of constituents and decision-makers, the GAPP project formed a Management Committee (See Managing an EG) (Equipo Gestor, EG). The EG is a group of men and women representing different interests and institutions, from the local government civil society that are committed to working together for the development of the Municipality and its constituents. A capacity development plan was developed for the members of the EG based on a needs assessment and SWOT analysis of the teams’ knowledge and skills. (See Developing a Capacity-Building Plan EG and Example of CB Plan Tomala)

With the ICRs: Members and leaders of the ICR participated in workshops with the aim of strengthening the organizational capacity of the institutions. Participants learn basic administrative and financial skills and are introduced to how gender equality leads to more responsive and stronger institutions. During these workshops, the participants are introduced to the process of developing a gender equality policy within the organization.

Food Security and Nutrition Policies

The GAPP project worked with residents and local authorities to develop gender-responsive food security and nutrition policies. This process is similar to the participatory municipal budgeting (PMP) exercise described below. Consultations are held with local authorities and with other civil society groups, including the RMM, to understand the vision and scope of the policy, as well as individuals who can serve on the EG that will lead this process. Once developed, the policy is distributed to civil society for review and validation and is then sent to the Municipal government for approval. Civil society groups are then engaged once again to support the implementation and monitoring of the policy. At the end of the project, nine policies had been developed and approved by the local government.

Two examples of these policies are attached here from San Juan de Guarita and Piraera.

ICRs’ Institutional Gender Policies

The aim of the activities with the ICR was to improve women’s access to financial resources. The main avenue for achieving this was to develop and approve a gender equality policy that described the organization’s commitment to meeting the needs of all its members, men and women. As with all the activities in this component of the GAPP Approach, the process of developing the policy was as important as the product itself. Men and women members of the ICR participated in a series of workshops to understand the principles upon which a gender equality policy is based. A small group of ICR leaders traveled to Nicaragua to learn from the members of the Flor de Pancasán Cooperative about their experience in developing a gender equality policy (Box 11). Both the cooperative leaders and members of the staff from the Asociación para la Diversificación y el Desarrollo Agrícola Comunal (ADDAC), an LWR partner organization providing technical support, shared their experiences and tools with the ICR leaders. (See ADDAC Tool for Cooperative)

While the ICRs worked towards developing their policies, many implemented changes to their practices that increased attention to its women members. By the end of the second year of implementation, 56 out of 59 ICRs had adopted practices that increased the number of women members of the ICR and the number of women in leadership positions. Loan eligibility rules were changed to provide women members preferential access to credit. This change was made in recognition of asset and resource differences between men and women.

During the life of the project, one ICR was able to develop and have their gender equality policy approved (See Sample Gender Policy ICR Tomala). This enshrined many of the practices that had already been adopted by the organization.

The Flor de Pancasán Cooperative was established in 2006 and groups small producers from 16 neighboring communities in the municipalities of Matiguás, Muy Muy, and San Ramón, Nicaragua. The mission of the Cooperative is to promote gender equity and business-oriented development using innovative technologies to protect the environment and improve the socio-economic capacity of its members. The Cooperative works with its members to improve productivity of agricultural products ranging from coffee and cocoa to staple grains. Since 2013, the cooperative has been working with the Asociación para la Diversificación y el Desarrollo Agrícola Comunal and LWR to revise its policies so that all of its members are treated equitably. A gender policy to strengthen the cooperative’s support to women members has recently been approved. The policy identifies a number of challenges that women face in becoming more active and productive members of the cooperative, including their access to land and credit. The policy introduces special mechanisms for women to access credit, such as accepting other forms of collateral besides land and favoring their access to credit to purchase or rent land. Women who access credit also benefit from lower interest rates.

Participatory Municipal Budgeting (Presupuesto Municipal Participativo)

(See Participatory Municipal Budgeting)

This activity aims to build the knowledge and capacity of citizens, local officials and policy makers to lead participatory budgeting efforts. The PMP applies a rights-based and gender-inclusive perspective to municipal budgeting. It engages citizens and officials in a budgeting process that aims to improve the prioritization and funding of municipal proposals following the principles of transparency, equity, and efficiency. The PMP process uses a guided approach that takes actors through a process of electing budgetary delegates, defining funding prioritization guidelines, analyzing income and expenditures, selecting projects, and implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the selected projects.

Under the GAPP project, municipal authorities from Gualcinse and Tambla participated in this process. Members of the RMM were among the representatives of the EG that was responsible for the leading the budgeting process. Other members of the EG include representatives from the municipal government, the youth networks, the Ministry of Health and of Education, public officials, and the citizens transparency commission.

PMP is included in the GAPP process because it is a mechanism for women who have participated in GAPP workshops to exercise their leadership skills. Building the capacity of the municipal government to adopt a more inclusive perspective to budgeting is important for ensuring the process is equitable and responsive to the needs of diverse groups of citizens, including rural women. Finally, while the success of the effort is not measured by whether or not funding is directed to women’s initiatives, the efforts of GAPP are ultimately intended to increase women’s access to resources.

Lessons Learned

  • Design similar policy development workshops for private and public institutions. The members of the ICRs and the EG participate in different policy development workshops but would have befitted from the knowledge and skills the other group received. The key topics included: Gender 101, Policy Analysis and Development, Policy Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation. This would not negate the inclusion of other topics that are more institutionally tailored, like the administrative and operational modules targeting the ICRs. The tools used with the ICR and the municipal governments were different. For example, the ICR workshops included a much stronger focus on understanding and integrating gender issues than the training the EG received. In contrast, the training delivered to the EG drew attention to problem analysis and how to design policies in response. The difference in workshops was largely because different organizations were leading the workshops with the ICR and the EG: CASM and ASONOG, respectively. In hindsight however the workshops could have been much more aligned.
  • Deliver training to members of the EG before embarking on the public policy development process. The EGs consisted of individuals with varying levels of knowledge about gender and yet they were tasked with developing gender integrated Food Security and Nutrition Plans. While the teams received technical assistance from the GAPP project to develop the plans, their lack of knowledge around gender issues was apparent in the first drafts of many of the Food Security and Nutrition Plans. With respect to gender, many included a broad statement saying the municipality was committed to gender integration, without providing the details on what this meant exactly. Capacity development plans for the EGs were developed but these plans were produced over the course of working with the EGs and not before the teams began the policy development process. In the future it would be important to establish and train the EGs early on in the project.
  • Strengthen feedback loops between the RMM and the women’s community groups at the base. As the activities moved away from capacity building towards advocacy and policy development, fewer women were involved. Only the leaders of the community-based women’s groups that were part of the RMM were actively involved in the public policy processes. A significant amount of investment was made to ensuring that women could engage with different institutions, the ICRs and local governments, but explicit attention to ensuring there were feedback loops to the women at the base was overlooked. The GAPP team considers this a key element of women’s leadership and institutional strengthening. The mechanisms should be in place so that when new policies, like the Food Security and Nutrition Plan, are developed women leaders in the RMM develop a plan for disseminating this information to their members.

What’s next?

More time is in needed to understand whether the seeds planted by the GAPP project will take root in the men and women, and the institutions that were involved in the activities. While the project achieved its objectives – securing funding for women’s economic initiatives and establishing gender-responsive policies in the ICR and at the municipal level—it is unable, for example, to monitor the implementation of those policies. Furthermore, although the women received initial funding for their economic activities, this does not mean that these will continue to grow and thrive.

We’d like to conclude with a few remaining thoughts:

  • The women and men who participated in the GAPP project have the knowledge and skills to be able to continue this journey. We hope that with these experiences they will continue to work together to improve the social, economic and political opportunities in their lives and in the lives of their neighbors.
  • The RMM was successful in developing a relationship with other actors in the community with whom it can continue to advocate for change. The OMM and the ICR in particular are two of the organizations with whom the RMM can work and build joint platforms for action on gender equality and other community development concerns. They can also rely on support from the NGO partners who participated in the GAPP project, like ASONOG and CASM, whose presence remains beyond the life of the project.
  • Multiple stakeholders have been introduced to participatory processes that can better serve them and their constituents. This includes the local government, the EG, and the ICRs. Based on the principles of equity, trust, and mutual support, these processes are meant to provide more transparent and sustainable means of working.

We hope that this Toolkit has provided you with insight into the GAPP Approach. It is one way of working towards institutional and policy changes that benefit both men and women, and may not work for all organizations and all contexts. However, we hope that it provides you with some ideas for how to improve your gender equality work and for working collectively towards building more responsive and inclusive communities.