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Year: 2009 Type: Report Language: English

This research report describes and analyses how three national level women’s organisations in Bangladesh mobilized support around a particular issue among their membership and allies. The research uses resource mobilisation theories and feminist studies on the state and social movement for grounding this research. The focus is on the decade of 1990s and the present decade. Through these case studies the research aims to capture the diversity of the strategies used by these organisations for building constituencies internally and externally, i.e., within the civil society organisations, media, political parties and the state bureaucracies. The research findings highlight the following. All three case study organisations have strategically packaged the issues differently for their own members and external supporters depending on the emotional response they want to invoke and the social costs involved in packaging an issue in a specific way. The strategies these organisations used to build support within the state, political parties and the civil society are influenced by the following factors: The contradictory positions of the Bangladeshi state on gender equity issues, aid dependence and politicization of the civil bureaucracy have led the feminist organisations to engage with the state in an opportunistic manner i.e. seizing opportunities, as and when they arise, to strategically further their cause. This type of behaviour is motivated by the need to preserve autonomy, organizational legitimacy, and on the use of personal connections to access state machinery. Generally, the women’s organisations have tried to distance themselves from the political parties and have not directly lobbied for their issues to be incorporated into the agenda set by the political parties. This is due to the fact that the costs of engaging with political parties remain high and these organisations have failed to establish themselves as major players in the political system. The nature of exchange with the civil society is marked by considerations for norms around mutual reciprocity based on personal obligations, legitimacy concerns, and asymmetrical power relations, which at times have adversely affected accountability relations within the alliance.