AALI was founded in 1998 in the pursuance of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995. From the outset, AALI harnessed the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as its primary ideological framework. CEDAW, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” As its main focus, AALI adopted a rights-based approach and elected to concentrate its work on ensuring women’s rights in the private sphere. However, over the years AALI’s interventions have encompassed a wide-range of issues.
Following the 1995 Beijing Conference, women’s rights defenders in Uttar Pradesh, India realized that at the local level, they had been unable to reach the goals that were being discussed within national and international forums. As a result, women’s activists began to brainstorm new opportunities and platforms for the improved planning and organization of their efforts to further women’s human rights, both locally and statewide. The resulting discussions highlighted the importance of interpreting the rights of women through a human rights framework, and of emphasizing the political dimension of women’s issues which must be recognized in order for them to become a priority in the state’s agenda. In 1996, the Women’s Association for Mobilisation and Action (WAMA), a state-level network of women activists, was created to link individual activists together with the aim of inspiring greater coordination of efforts and collaboration on issues of key relevance to women.
Following the creation of WAMA, the critical demand for collective interventions and initiatives for women at the administrative, political, and societal levels remained. As advocating on behalf of women’s human rights was not the primary focus of any single UP-based NGO at the time, activists realized the need to concentrate their efforts on building the capacity of women’s collectives, development organizations, and political and state actors. They also realized that a consolidated approach toward building strategic and organized mechanisms for action was needed. The convergence of these efforts resulted in the formation of AALI.
Today, AALI undertakes research, advocacy, direct response and legal-aid to violations of women’s human rights, often in partnership with outside organizations at the local, national, and international levels. AALI organizes and participates in national-level campaigns, engages in networking and convergence activities, and builds networks, strategic alliances, and responses within various forums. Additionally, AALI responds to out-of-state cases when possible, based on the availability of receptive and organized local support