OverviewDo’s and don’ts
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Lessons on stakeholders

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Providing access to VAW prevention and response services: Campaigns on VAW tend to increase demand for direct support to VAW survivors, as women who have not dared to report their experience of VAW may feel encouraged to seek support. It is critical therefore that campaigns, and especially those that focus on awareness-raising, not be undertaken unless survivors and other community members have access to minimum services (health, protection and legal) or referrals to get the support they may need. In many instances, outreach or advocacy may result in a woman or girl speaking out about her abuse for the very first time, and prompt counseling and care should be made readily available, in line with ethical standards.

If inadequate or no support services are available, it may be advisable to start with projects or advocacy campaigns for the establishment of organizations supporting VAW survivors. Another option would be to re-frame the campaign to call for justice, and address inequities faced by women and girls in their daily lives, rather than to directly address VAW.

If protection and support services are available to survivors, it is also crucial for campaigners to work to establish links and co-ordinate activities with the organizations which provide such services, e.g. counseling centers, women’s shelters and police and judicial officials trained to deal with VAW-related issues. Keep an up-to-date list of addresses and telephone numbers where survivors can be referred to, and regularly share information with service providers as the campaign progresses.

See Services for Victims in the Legislation module.


Example: The IOM’s Southern Africa Counter-Trafficking Assistance programme (SACTAP) developed a serial radio drama called ‘Dealers/Troco’ as part of its campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking and advertise its help lines in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The toll free help lines are manned by counsellors who have been trained to respond to calls ranging from general enquiries to requests for assistance from trafficked persons.

For additional information, see the website.

Working with men and boys: Although evidence shows that, no matter the form and context of VAW, perpetrators are overwhelmingly men, VAW deeply affects all segments of society. It can destroy social networks and tear apart families and communities. Effective campaigns, therefore, must include and target not only women and girls, but men and boys.

Men and boys must be engaged as key allies in preventing violence—when provided with information and sensitization on the issue, many men can serve as important role models and spokespeople to promote gender equality in family relationships, and condemn the use of violence to resolve conflict at home and in the community. Men and boys can help to make clear that it is possible to prevent violence, in their own lives, and by exerting influence on their peers.

The evidence-base is growing on the positive changes associated with working with men and boys. (See also What is known to-date about working with men and boys.) In many countries, men have joined the struggle to end VAW, organizing all-male campaigns or participating in “mixed” (male and female) campaigns. An example is the White Ribbon Campaign, widely considered the first men’s campaign to end VAW. It was first launched by a group of men in Canada in 1991 to encourage men and boys to speak out against, and prevent violence from happening to women and girls. Today, the campaign runs in at least 60 countries in November and December of each year. 


See the Men and Boys module for more information and guidance on engaging men and boys to end VAW.



Bear in mind: Women’s rights activists occasionally express concerns about working with men. Some feel for example, that it might distract from the need to empower women, or that not all men who oppose VAW would subscribe to a gender-equitable agenda. Women’s groups and “mixed” or men’s organizations can rise above differences and difficulties to form strategic alliances on a shared basis of key values and goals. The Men and Boys module lists some of these challenges and ways of overcoming them.


Gender sensitivity: As a rule, campaigners on VAW must be aware of gender issues, i.e. problems linked to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. If a campaign includes groups that have never worked on gender issues, it is vital to organize training and regular dialogue to ensure that campaigners continually update their knowledge and understanding, and work in a gender-sensitive manner as a matter of daily practice.

Promoting leadership and guidance by the women’s movement: Women’s organizations have been at the forefront of campaigning to end VAW, making the problem visible as a human rights issue, and a health and social challenge, and placing it on international agendas. Over the last few decades, many women’s organizations have developed critical skills and experience in analyzing and challenging social and cultural norms that foster VAW. Campaigns to end VAW should draw on this experience and promote women’s leadership so as to contribute to social transformation towards gender equality.

Mobilizing communities and promoting local leadership: To create a supportive environment for change, a large cross-section of communities and key community leaders need to take responsibility and get involved in ending VAW. The general ethos behind successful campaigns has been that every person can and should be an agent of change, and that local leadership must be supported. Decentralized campaign leadership and grassroots level activism that mobilizes ever larger numbers of people from varied backgrounds can help create a ripple effect and build critical mass, which in turn, can impact the reform or transformation of social or institutional practices (e.g. law enforcement, court system, improved services).


Example: Foot-binding in China 

The campaign against foot-binding in China is an example of one that involved a cross-section of the community. It is arguably, one of the first campaigns to end VAW in the modern world. Foot-binding was a “traditional” practice in China where young girls’ feet were broken and wrapped in tight layers of cloth so that they would grow into deformed, tiny lumps, so-called “lotus feet”. It was thought that girls with “lotus feet” would be more likely to find a wealthy husband even if they were disabled for all their lives. Many contributed to the movement to end this practice, including political leaders who outlawed it in 1912, respected Chinese scholars who denounced it as a cruel practice, and Christian missionaries who worked with local communities to raise awareness. In addition, the success of the campaign owed much ultimately to parents who formally committed themselves to not binding their daughters’ feet, and to keeping their sons from marrying girls with “lotus feet”. In communities where both the “offer” and the “demand” side were thus tackled, the practice reportedly disappeared within a single generation.


Source: Appiah, K., Oct. 2010.  The Art of Social Change, New York Times Magazine.