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Calling for urgent attention to specific cases

Urgent action campaigns are a special form of advocating for effective law enforcement. While the two types of advocacy campaigns described above focus on long-term institutional change, there may sometimes be a need to respond to a specific, urgent issue. A call for urgent action may be part of a larger campaign, or a stand-alone initiative on a specific, urgent issue.

Example: The UNIFEM handbook Making a Difference: Strategic Communications to End Violence Against Women (2003; Russian) provides examples for such urgent action, e.g.:

Rumors began to circulate in the Ugandan women’s movement that a king was planning a traditional ritual of a mock marriage to a young virgin, intended to ‘cleanse’ him before his real marriage ceremony. A return to this traditional ceremony was inconceivable to most Ugandans, who did not believe that a ‘modern’ king would carry out such an ancient practice. However, the rumors were confirmed when the king announced he had identified a teenage girl in Baku village to participate in the ritual. Upon confirmation of the story, Uganda Women’s Net contacted Isis-Women’s International Cross Culture Exchange (Isis-WICCE). They knew that Isis had the capacity to disseminate the information worldwide, and was linked to an international feminist network that could rally to exert pressure. (…) Isis was clear that this ritual was a violation of the Ugandan Constitution and the human rights treaties the Ugandan Government had ratified. Along with other NGOs, they decided to engage in a rigorous media campaign, and to call upon the Government of Uganda to intervene, given its commitments and obligations under international human rights treaties.

The NGOs began an e-mail onslaught to notify other global women’s networks that this ritual was going to take place. Soon after, the international press picked up the story and began to exert pressure – calling government representatives to get their position on the matter and covering every detail of the case. The story became a widely debated and discussed topic in the country and eventually the public pressure worked. The kingdom issued a statement that the king was to have a real marriage ceremony and would not be performing the ritual of taking the little girl as a symbolic wife.”

Adapted from an interview with Ruth Ochieng, Isis-WICCE, as told during the Harare Strategic Communications Workshop, March 2001.