If you try to google the word “advocacy”, you will find a huge amount of definitions among which it is not easy to guide your research. That’s why it is important to start with the original meaning of this word: the word “advocacy” comes from the latin ‘advocare’ and literally means ‘to call out for support’.
Today it has acquired a more specific and political connotation and it describes a particular democratic process, where individuals or groups of people take different actions to try to influence those who make decisions that affect our lives. But it is important to point up that advocacy is not just about influencing public policy, but also and first of all about influencing public opinion. Even if most of the time advocacy is defined as speaking on behalf of others, one of its aims must be raising the public’s consciousness about a particular issue. Just think about the famous speech of Martin Luther King “I have a dream”: it inspired millions of people to think about the struggle for civil rights and it was an essential step to led important changes in the laws of the US.
Concerning this, we can consider the definitions given on the one hand by Marge Schuler in Human Rights Manual and on the other hand by Save the Children Fund UK in A handbook for planning advocacy:
“Advocacy consists of actions designed to draw a community’s attention to an issue and to direct policy-makers to a solution.”
“Advocacy can be defined as action aimed at changing the policies, position and programmes of governments, institutions or organisations involving an organised, systematic influencing process on matters of public interest. In addition, advocacy can be a social change process affecting attitudes, social relationships and power relations, which strengthens civil society and opens up democratic spaces.”
It follows, therefore, that advocacy is made of several strategies and actions which respond to one and easy imperative: fight for our rights.
“Put simply, advocacy means fighting for our rights. Advocacy includes figuring out how bureaucracies and systems work, and fighting decisions that deny us things we are legally entitled to — protection from discrimination, access to social assistance and health care, fair treatment by the justice system, etc. Advocacy also includes lobbying organizations, institutions, and various levels of government to change their rules and regulations that deny people the full economic, political, and legal rights set out in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (Transcend – Transgender Support and Education Society).