In the past year we have come across groundbreaking campaigns and have been inspired by extraordinary women leading the fight against assault on women. Women of different backgrounds have come together to add their voices in shaping a better future for women and girls globally. Ordinary, yet brilliant, movements like ‘#YesAllWomen’ and ‘Take Back The Tech’, prompted frank and honest debates concerning sexual harassment online and in our daily lives. Actress Emma Watson helped launched a new initiative—the ‘He4She’ campaign—with the UN in support of gender equality. And the courageous 17-year-old, Malala Yousafzai, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to human rights and advocacy for the education of girls and women.
While we’ve seen progress, the ongoing battle that women face must be noted and addressed. We live in a world where women are still regarded as collateral damage in war zones when they are taken hostage, raped or killed for political motives. Women are still the victims of hate crime as witnessed in the Isla Vista Killings. Women’s rights are still infringed upon in ordinary public settings, such as being harassed and touched without consent on the streets, as seen in Sam Pepper’s disturbing YouTube videos. Add all this to domestic abuse of women in their homes, and it becomes startlingly clear that women are viewed as second-class citizens in many parts of the world.
So today, in honour of all VAW activists, nonprofits and grassroots group who toil in such thankless situations to bring about positive change to the lives of women and girls facing violence, we present 16 of the most striking campaigns/programmes we have come across in the last year of our work.
What these campaigns have in common are:
- The built-in “water-cooler” factor that gets the community buzzing about the campaign and, by extension, the issue of VAW.
- A good sense of what works in and for the culture and community where the activist/nonprofit/grassroots group is trying to effect change.
We hope that these campaigns and initiatives inspire you to take action and get on board the cause to end VAW.
It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
– Written and compiled by Samantha Carroll
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #1: Act together in Prevention and Response to GBV and Child Abuse – Rwanda
The Rwandan government, with the support of the National Police force, took proactive steps in reducing violence against woman with plans to have the Isange One Stop Centre overhauled by 2017. Isange, launched at the Kacyiru Police Hospital in 2009, provides free medical and legal services to those affected by violence. The campaign’s top priority was addressing the number of sexual crimes as well as spousal murders that take place within the country. The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Odda Gasinzigwa, called on citizens to get involved and support the police in preventing gender-based violence (GBV) and the abuse of children.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #2: Amani – Jordan
The ‘Amani’ campaign launched in Za’atari, a refugee camp in Jordan with a population of 81, 000 Syrian men, women and children who fled Syria after the civil war broke out in 2011. Much of the harassment in Za’atari is faced by women and young girls and Amani’s goal was to protect children and women from violence while teaching Syrian women about agencies they could contact for help and spreading awareness. Social workers visited homes to provide information about gender-based violence and child protection. The message of the campaign was: “Our sense of safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #3: #AmINext – Canada
Loretta Saunders was murdered while writing a thesis on violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. In response, her cousin Holly Jarrett, started a petition on Change.org which received 320,000 signatures. What followed was a viral campaign with Canadian women using the #AmINext hashtag on Twitter. Women tagged friends to post an #AmINext selfie to draw attention to the widespread violence against Aboriginal women. Many called on government and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act. It is estimated that there are 1,186 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #4: AWAM’s Nationwide Campaign on Domestic Violence – Malaysia
A nationwide campaign on domestic violence launched in July of 2013 and ran through to September 2014 in Malaysia. SOGO Kuala Lumpur funded the campaign, which looked to provide information and services for families affected by domestic abuse. A Community Message Video was released and used for public education and training activities. Celebrities, non-governmental organizations, and service providers, such as Hospital (OSCC), Police (D11) and the Welfare Department (DV), all came together to lend their support.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #5: Blow the Whistle – South Africa
1 in 3 South African women will have been abused before the age of 18. News headlines of grotesque rape and murders are as recurrent as they are shocking. Legacy Lifestyle teamed up with South African celebrities and ambassadors to create the Blow the Whistle campaign. The campaign intends to keep South African women and children safe by means of whistles as well as a mobile app. Blow the Whistle urges men and ordinary bystanders to take charge and act when they witness atrocious crimes being committed against women. Whistles are sold on the Blow the Whistle website, and the proceeds are donated to the DNA Project and the development of DNA forensic technology, which will ensure that perpetrators of rape are accurately identified and held accountable.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #6: Carry the Weight Together – United States of America
In August 2012, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her college dorm room at Columbia University. Sulkowicz reported her rapist to Columbia’s disciplinary panel who found him “not responsible”. Thereafter, two more female students came forward and identified the same individual as their rapist. This past September, Sulkowicz, a visual art student, did something novel, which sparked a nationwide movement on college campus’ around the US: she began carrying her mattress with her everywhere and vowed that she would not put it down until her rapist was expelled or left Columbia on his own accord. On October 29th, students from various colleges around the US amassed to Carry the Weight Together by carrying mattresses in support of Sulkowicz and other rape survivors, and raising awareness of sexual violence.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #7: #Choice4Life – Nigeria
A social media campaign that brought together young Nigerians set the web ablaze in support of safe abortion and stopping violence against women and girls. #Choice4Life advocates encouraged the appropriate punishment for perpetrators of gender-based violence and the protection of women’s rights. In the past year, one in ten Nigerian women said they had experienced violence. The choice to use social media tools like Twitter successfully ensured that the youth of Nigeria were engaged in raising awareness. The #Choice4Life campaign also opposed the sexual violence committed against school girls who were taken hostage by Boko Haram earlier this year.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #8: MAN UP – Ireland
ManUp was the first campaign in Ireland to adopt new national public awareness guidelines that were published by COSC (the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence). These guidelines moved to raise awareness of safety information for survivors while also focusing on the behaviour of perpetrators. As the campaign name suggests, men were invited to participate in finding a solution for ending violence against women in Ireland. The campaign took a bold approach by sharing stories that, albeit unsettling, were necessary to wake up the public, and men in particular.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #9: Man vs Woman: Stop This Match – Italy
This award-winning campaign by Avon and Looking for Water sought to eliminate violence against women through advertising. ‘Man vs Woman: Stop This Match’, was created after it was noted that violence seemed to be a man’s favourite sport, with a woman seen as the fitting opponent for domination. The campaign was also concerned with the subtle, nuanced, and non-violent ways in which women experience abuse via name-calling, humiliation, control and manipulation. The face of the ‘Man vs Woman’ campaign was Italian rugby union footballer, Mauro Bergamasco, who denounced violence against women.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #10: The National Anti-Rape Campaign (NARC) – Nepal
Nepal’s Anti-Rape Campaign has been busy for a little over a year trying to secure protection for women even after the failure of government to amend the nation’s rape law. A sit-in protest began at Bhadrakali, Kathmandu on April 29th after demands issued by campaigners were disregarded. Campaigners demanded that new, effective laws against rape be implemented and aligned with human rights, a constitution that guarantees the rights of women be developed, and that the Truth and Reconciliation Committee have more female representation. Action Works Nepal (AWON) has been actively participating to see that the ‘National Anti-Rape Campaign’ demands are met.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #11: #NOTokay – Canada
#NOTokay, the social media campaign by the YWCA, began as a question: “Why are we treating violence against women lightly in popular culture?” The campaign highlighted music videos, internet memes and television programmes that show an industry that makes belittling, sexualising and abusing women seem normal and “okay”. This campaign aimed to raise awareness about the media we expose ourselves and our children to and what consequences these misleading messages are bound to have. [TRIGGER WARNING: The animation clips below contain graphic depictions of violence against women.]
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #12: Shine a Light – Australia
Domestic violence claims the life of a woman every week in Australia and 1.6 million Australian women have experienced abuse in their homes. It is said that less than half the victims report their cases to the police due to fear of social alienation or economic ruin. The ‘Shine a Light’ campaign, created by the Herald and Daily Life, intends to raise awareness of violence towards women, hold government accountable, and create safer living environments for families across Australia.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #13: Spot of Shame – India
Stop Acid Attacks is an Indian organisation that aims to stop the brutal acid attacks suffered by 270 women every year. This year the organisation started an intrepid campaign called Spot of Shame. The campaign, held from 22 January to 2 February 2014, encouraged women to mark certain areas in cities (Spots of Shame) with black and yellow stamps, where victims were attacked, assaulted or abused. The organisation targeted train stations as many women are raped on crowded trains or buses. 300 protestors converged in Mumbai at Bandra Terminus to lend support to the campaign.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #14: #StandUpWorldCup – The United Kingdom
Recent Lancaster University research showed that domestic violence can rise to 26 percent when the English football team wins or draws, and rises a further 38 percent when the national team loses a game. The Tender Education and Arts group in the UK put together a campaign under the tagline #StandUpWorldCup, and produced a haunting PSA via YouTube. The PSA depicts an anxious woman watching a football game and hoping with all her might that the right team wins because she knows the likelihood of what will happen if they do not.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #15: The Brave Is Not Violent – Brazil
Another World Cup campaign to stop violence against women was ‘The Brave Is Not Violent’ initiative launched in the 2014 host nation, Brazil. The campaign aimed to alter sexist behaviour and highlight the responsibility of men to advocate for an end to gender-based violence. Football fans who attended FanFests were approached by volunteers and received stickers with such slogans as ‘Valente not Violent’ printed on them. UN Women in Brazil supported the campaign by installing trailers next to the FanFests where HIV testing was conducted and condoms were freely distributed. The representative of UN Women in Brazil, Nadine Gasman, stated that a sporting event was a great occasion to draw attention to violence against women and to eradicate gender stereotypes.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #16: Women Confront VAW using ICTs – Uganda
The Association for Progressive Communication and Isis-WICCE partnered together to create an initiative that incorporated technology to combat violence against women in the fishing community of Namaingo, Uganda. Although technology has advanced, many women in remote communities lack technical knowledge, skills and appropriate resources to properly engage with others already connected to the worldwide web. The initiative provided ITC training which helped the women send out SMS messages to local leaders and the general public, denouncing acts of violence against women. The SMS messages were sent in local language and helped educate the Namaingo community about VAW.