What can one expect from a campaign to end VAW?
With a clear strategy, frequent consultation with stakeholders and careful planning, it is possible to make change happen. Existing evaluations and evidence show that campaigns can be successful – within a reasonable scope. A single campaign however, cannot solve all issues related to VAW. Long-term multi-pronged strategies are needed to effectively prevent and reduce violence against women and girls (WHO, 2010. Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence...). The sum of partial campaign successes has done much to contribute to tangible change in public awareness, and in laws and policies to end VAW.
The following describes what might reasonably be expected as successful outcomes of a campaign to end VAW:
- As a minimum, to break the silence on violence against women and girls: campaigning is about public action to achieve change, i.e. making VAW a public issue. However, breaking the silence is only a first, albeit essential, step towards ending VAW.
- In advocacy campaigns, to influence decision-makers: the more public support a campaign garners, the more it is likely the issue will be noticed by politicians and opinion-makers who can prompt policy/institutional change.
- To attain specific and realistic campaign goals: a campaign for a precise action to be taken by a well-specified group of people has better chances of reaping success than a vague call for an end to violence. Such goals may include -
- prompting survivors of violence to seek support and redress
- securing government funding for women’s centers that support VAW survivors
- convincing legislators to translate international law on VAW into national legislation (see Legislation Module.)
- persuading perpetrators of violence to seek treatment
The Freedom from Fear campaign in Western Australia succeeded in substantially increasing the number of VAW perpetrators seeking psychological treatment by phoning a help-line.
The Moroccan campaign (beginning in the 1990’s) for the amendment of Islamic family law (the Moudawana) obtained significant legal changes that enhanced women’s rights in marriage and divorce. (Source: Alexandra Pittman, with the support of Rabea Naciri, Cultural Adaptations: The Moroccan Women's Campaign to Change the Moudawana, Institute of Development Studies, 2007.)
- To provoke a shift in social norms over a period of time: evaluations of VAW campaigns suggest that well-designed campaigns can prompt significant change in attitudes and social norms related to VAW. However, there is not necessarily a direct link between changes in knowledge and attitudes and changes in violent behaviours, which depends on a multiplicity of factors. The World Health Organization notes about media campaigns for example: “Media campaigns have proven successful in increasing knowledge of intimate partner violence and influencing attitudes towards gender norms, but less is known about their ability to reduce violent behaviour, as it is difficult to measure potential changes in levels of violence associated with media interventions. Research shows, however, that the most successful media interventions are those that begin by understanding the behaviour of their audience and engaging its members in developing the intervention” (WHO, 2009. Promoting Gender Equality to Prevent..).
Campaigns therefore, while important elements in any fight to tackle gender-based violence, in and of themselves, are insufficient to eradicate the problem. Instead, it takes a multi-sector multi-pronged effort, including campaigns, legislation, services and community-level interventions, to truly reduce violence against women and girls.