January 2018

Successful Women's Coalitions in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia: Feminism, Friendships and Social Change

Julian C. H. Lee, Ceridwen Spark

This paper draws on case studies of two successful women’s coalitions: the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Port Moresby (BPW) in Papua New Guinea, and Joint Action Group on Gender Equality (JAG) in Malaysia.

BPW brings elite women together ‘to work for equal opportunities and status for women in the economic, social and political life in Papua New Guinea’, particularly through sponsoring girls’ education. JAG is a coalition of feminist civil society groups that promotes women’s rights across a broad range of issues and contexts.

By focusing on successful women’s coalitions the study adds to Tadros’ (2011) insights about the factors that help build success, while demonstrating that definitions of ‘success’ differ according to a coalition’s aims and the contexts in which it operates. The findings also support Hodes et al. (2011)’s finding that ‘soft advocacy’ and ‘backstage politics’ can be more effective strategies in some contexts. For instance, in PNG, BPW worked to slowly transform women’s lives in a relatively non-threatening way, while those involved with JAG were more explicitly feminist in their aims and activities.

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Successful Women's Coalitions in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia: Feminism, Friendships and Social Change

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