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Raise public awareness

Last edited: December 21, 2011

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Awareness-raising is a powerful tool and has been shown to change attitudes related to gender. Key principles for awareness-raising around informal justice sector reform include (Australian Agency for International Development, 2008):

  • Portray role models with whom audiences can identify. These role models can demonstrate that there are new ways to deal with common problems and that the new ways can protect the human rights of women.
  • Offer women-only sessions whenever feasible, as well as mixed-sex sessions, to allow for frank discussion amongst women and girls.
  • Use multiple modes of communication to saturate a community with a consistent message.
  • Reinforce mass media, like radio or posters, with interpersonal communication such as town hall meetings.
  • Include “edutainment” as part of the awareness raising effort. This might include theater, radio dramas, videos with talk-back sessions, as well as music and music videos.
  • Keep the awareness effort sustained over time. Holding regular community consultations and distributing periodic newsletters, articles or other materials on a regular basis, all are potential ways to make a communication effort sustained and fresh.
  • Engage faith communities in efforts to increase knowledge and change attitudes early in the process. Because faith traditions are often used to justify violence and male domination in society, engaging faith communities to change that paradigm is essential.


Awareness-Raising in Aceh, Indonesia

After the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, it was clear that women were vulnerable because of lack of information about their rights in Aceh’s justice system, which includes customary courts (adat), shari’a courts (Mahkamah Syari’yah), and the formal courts. As part of a broader public awareness campaign designed to ensure that women’s – especially widows and divorced women’s – inheritance and custody rights were protected, an international non-governmental organization worked to develop posters highlighting women’s equality in land tenure and guardianship. The campaign also included films designed specifically to enhance women’s knowledge, and posters to reinforce community awareness of legal rights. The film tracked the lives of three women who were dealing with some of the most common legal problems faced by women: land rights, inheritance, and guardianship.


Guidebook on Land, Inheritance and Guardianship Law in Post-Tsunami Aceh (International Development Law Organization, 2006). Available in English.

10 Frequently Asked Questions on Inheritance Law in Post-Tsunami Aceh (International Development Law Organization, 2006). Available in English and in Bahasa Indonesian by emailing aceh@idlo.org.

20 Frequently Asked Questions on the Guardianship of Children without Parental Care in Post-Tsunami Aceh (International Development Law Organization, 2006). Available in English and in Bahasa Indonesian by emailing aceh@idlo.org.

10 Frequently Asked Questions on Guardianship Law in Post-Tsunami Aceh (International Development Law Organization, 2006). Available in English in Bahasa Indonesian by emailing aceh@idlo.org.


Mock Tribunals in Nigeria

The Nigerian women’s human rights group  BAOBAB and the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre organized the first National Tribunal on Violence against Women on March 14th 2001 in the capital city of Abuja. The tribunal was unofficial and not legally binding, but the testimonies would be real – 33 women were selected to testify. Some of them had volunteered, and many agreed to share their experiences when they realized this may have a positive impact on their families and communities. They testified about their experience of violence from the state, in the home, and from society as a whole.

The judges were selected based on their prominence and their concern for women’s rights. They included two Supreme Court Justices, several heads of NGOs, and prominent lawyers. The tribunals were open to the public, and the organizers took special care to invite journalists, police, commissioners, and other groups. Different types of human rights abuses were grouped into different sessions. The panel of judges listened, asked questions, and after the testimonies, they convened in private. Afterwards, rather than passing a sentence, as in a regular trial, the judges made a public policy proclamation.

The testimonies were very moving for the audience, and the attendance of journalists led to wider public awareness of the tribunals. Locally, the tribunals helped to get state legislation passed against female genital mutilation. On a national level, their impact helped advance a domestic violence bill (which was eventually passed in 2007). More generally, the tribunals created greater public awareness that abuses against women do exist, and that they are serious.

See related documents on this tribunal.

Source: Fijabi, M, 2004. A Mock Tribunal to Advance Change: the National Tribunal on Violence Against Women in Nigeria, on New Tactics in Human Rights.

Sample rights-based education materials on the informal sector include:

Leaflet on Violence Against Women (Nigeria: BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights). Available in English.

Leaflet on Divorce under Muslim law (Nigeria: BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights). Available in English.

Radio programme on violence against women (Equal Access, 2010). The Samajhdari Project radio project episodes are available for download. Available in Nepali.


Maximizing Mobile Phones for Rights-based Education

Organizations and activists around the world are quickly adapting their educational efforts in both the informal and formal justice sectors to take advantage of mobile phone technology. The anti-trafficking organization Survivors Connect uses text messaging technology with grassroots organizations in Cameroon, Ghana, Nepal, USA, and Vietnam for the following education and awareness raising activities:

  • Reporting instances of violence/locations of suspected trafficking activity
  • Organize/publicize events and meetings via text
  • Viral campaigning – forward texts to a friend
  • Use as helpline so individuals can get support; also can act as a referral for other professionals
  • Auto responders set up to give out key information about trafficking
  • Coordinate a referral system depending on a victim/survivors needs
  • Immediate translation
  • Geospatial mapping of texts


Free software to facilitate the effective use of SMS is available from several groups, including Ushahidi and Frontline SMS.