One of the most important parts of advocacy work is having the capability and confidence to communicate with our government representatives. As citizens, we have the right to address our representatives with the issues we feel passionate about. As representatives, they have the duty to listen. So how do you know whether your congressmen have an interest in Africa? How do you find out if they have supported legislation on issues that you feel are crucial to the well-being of the African people? Here are some ways to get started.
There is no comprehensive list of all votes placed on African issues for each representative, so you may have to do some searching. A good place to start is with your representatives’ website. Explore their stances on issues and see if you can find anything under the headings of “foreign policy” or “humanitarian aid” or something of the sort. This will usually give you a clue as to how they swing on issues relating to developing countries and Africa.
Another great place to start is at www.govtrack.us where you can search by representative or subject. So if you find the “Africa (Sub-Saharan)” category, you can see all of the bills relating to issues such as ours and who sponsored or co-sponsored the legislation.
You can also go to the Library of Congress website . Here you can type in a keyword (i.e. “Africa”) and find bills relating to it. Often, the introducers of the bill will be included in the text. The Government Printing Office provides a similar service if you like this method of searching.
Finally, The Washington Post has an Africa issues vote database. Each bill relating to sub-Saharan Africa is documented and vote roll calls are listed.