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Joining a campaign

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Many international campaigns offer advice and readily available campaign kits (e.g. on their websites) for groups who wish to support the campaign in their own region. If the campaign goal is one of your priorities, and the strategy, message and materials appear sound and appropriate to your context, consider joining such a campaign rather than “reinventing the wheel”.

Bear in mind:

-      If the campaign goal and objectives do not match the priorities identified, you need to balance the advantages of joining a high-profile national or international effort against the risk of draining resources for a cause that is not a strategic priority for you.

-      Review and pre-test the campaign tools with representatives of the target audience group before launching the campaign activities. Certain aspects may need to be adjusted or re-designed to match the local context.

Example: The international Blue Heart Campaign was launched by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to draw attention to the global problem of human trafficking, and mobilize people to act against it. As a symbol of their support, participants are asked to wear the blue heart, or ‘wear’ it on their social media profiles (facebook, twitter, etc). Local organisations can also join the international campaign by running a local effort in their own countries (on key trafficking-related dates for example) using a number of tools and resources provided including factsheets, brochures, and a PSA.

In April 2010, Mexico joined the international campaign by launching its own national version – ‘Corazón Azul’. Over a dozen important buildings were lit up in blue across Mexico City in a symbolic act to raise awareness about the campaign. A pact (in Spanish), was also developed, which is a list of ten promises that act as guiding principles for those joining the campaign.

Case study: Sixteen Days of Activism to End Gender Violence

Arguably, the best-known global campaign to end VAW is the Sixteen Days of Activism to End Gender Violence. The case study below is reproduced and slightly adjusted from the Communication Initiative Network, a rich source of information and examples on communication for social change.

Background: In 1991, international participants in the United States-based Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL)'s first annual Women's Global Leadership Institute created an annual international campaign to communicate this message: violence against women violates human rights. They chose to symbolically link November 25th (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and December 10th (International Human Rights Day), designating the days in between the "16 Days of Action against Gender Violence", an organizing strategy to call for elimination of all forms of VAW (whether in the public or private sphere). 20 years later more than 2,800 organizations in 156 countries have participated in the global campaign, and the issue of gender-based violence has garnered a significant amount of international attention.

International Day Against Violence Against Women was first declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. As a result of extensive organizing by women’s rights organizations, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 25th as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [A/RES/54/134] in 1999. 

Communication Strategies: The dates chosen for the campaign are meant to indicate a symbolic link between VAW and violation of human rights: November 25 marks the UN-established International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and December 10 is International Human Rights Day. The 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1 (World AIDS Day) and December 6 (the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, 1989, in which 14 women students at the École Polytechnique were systematically killed).

In coordinating the campaign, CWGL helps individuals and organizations plan activities that focus on developing and calling for the implementation of local, national, and global policies aimed at eliminating VAW. Resources available for campaigners include:

  • an International Calendar of Campaign Activities, developed annually to highlight organizing efforts as part of a broader movement for women's human rights, to provide others with examples of activities and strategies used during the Campaign and to give activists an opportunity to join and support plans already in existence;
  • an interactive website that includes resources and opportunities for global campaign organizing and collaboration.

With these tools in hand, activists have engaged in the following approaches:

-      raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional, and international levels

-      creating tools to hold governments accountable to their promises made to eliminate VAW

-      strengthening local work around VAW

-      establishing a link between local and international work to end VAW

-      providing a forum in which organizers at different levels can develop and share new and effective strategies

-      demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against VAW.

Each year, a particular theme is chosen; materials (e.g., the "take action kit") and activities are shaped around the theme. (To read about past campaign themes, please visit the 16 Days website).

Campaign achievements: Organizers say that, while much work remains to be done, significant gains have been made since 1993 at the international level for the movement to end VAW, especially in the field of legal and policy reform. As of 2009, more than 2,000 organizations in over 156 countries had participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991, mobilizing support for practical measures to end VAW around the whole world.

As of September 2010, campaign materials are available from the site in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Kiswahili, Dutch and Nihongo. The site updates its campaign kits every year to match the annual campaign theme. Visit the campaign website.