For over a century, the Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) has served as a powerful advocate for women and children in the city of Atlanta and within the wider state of Georgia. In 1921, just five years after JLA’s founding, the League established a legislative committee to study “those laws affecting women and children and to bring pressure to bear on the legislature of Georgia and on Congress for the passage of Suitable laws” (article IV, section 1g of 1921 Bylaws). In the 1970s, JLA helped establish environmental protections for Georgia’s rivers and also advocated for state air quality controls. The 1980s saw the League receive a National Juvenile Justice Award for its advocacy for Georgia’s homeless children, as well as the launch of public awareness campaigns around child and drug abuse. More recently, the League has been on the forefront of advocating for revisions to Georgia law for the victims of sex trafficking, and in 2016, successfully helped pass the Safe Harbor Act, which extended the statue of limitations for child sex victims, among other important provisions.
Today, the JLA’s nonpartisan advocacy takes a variety of forms, and is guided by the League’s annually approved Public Stands, a series of affirmative position statements that provide a framework for the League’s advocacy. JLA advocacy also follows the League’s Issue-Based Community Impact (IBCI) model and its three issue areas of Generational Poverty, Early Childhood Education, and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children/Human Trafficking.
The League’s advocacy work falls under its Advocacy and Initiatives Council, which is composed of three distinct committees. The JLA’s Public and Political Affairs Committee (PAC), established by the League in 1968, monitors and supports legislation relevant to the League’s mission and works directly with local and state elected officials, as well as JLA community partners, to advance such policies. PAC also educates the wider JLA membership on new legislative measures, including the broader policy and law-making process in Georgia. This work culminates each year in the annual JLA Capitol Day, a day of direct advocacy at the state capitol by JLA members. PAC also works closely with the State Political Affairs Committee (SPAC) of the united Junior Leagues of Georgia. Recently passed legislation that the League has supported includes House Bill 231, which closes a loophole and extends access to dating violence protective orders; House Bill 146, which provides three weeks of paid parental leave for employees of the state of Georgia; and Senate Bill 75, which allows victims of stalking to terminate a lease 30 days after submitting written notice of termination.
Coalition Strategy places JLA members on local and regional coalitions of non-profits, governmental agencies, and other organizations that work with women and children, giving the JLA both a seat at the table for these important conversations and initiatives and providing the JLA’s century-long perspective and expertise. These coalitions currently include the Georgia Infant-Toddler Coalition and Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive (PAACT), both administered by JLA partner GEEARS (Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students); Learn4Life; the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC); Georgia Advancing Communities Together (GA ACT) which focuses on community development and equity; Georgia Justice Coalition which breaks down barriers to opportunity for Georgians impacted by the criminal justice system; Healthy Housing Coalition started by Gerogia Appleseed to ensure all families have access to healthy homes; and Georgia STOMP (Stop the Tax on Menstrual Products), a coalition dedicated to both ending the discriminatory sales tax on menstrual products in Georgia, as well as alleviating period poverty.
The Community Needs Assessment Committee (CNAC) uses a variety of methods to research new community needs for JLA service and leadership. Through the JLA’s Assets and Opportunities Map, a digital map created by JLA community partner Neighborhood Nexus in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission, the League is able to assess current data trends on education level, economic mobility, and affordable housing, among many other factors, by specific geography within the metro Atlanta area. The annually updated map uniquely positions the JLA to identify the most acute community needs and the areas of the city where the League can best serve and lead, and to provide relevant and current data to our community partners.