Because of the work we do, we at The Pixel Project come across innovative and powerful campaigns tackling violence against women (VAW) by our fellow activists and non-profits across the globe. Every year, the campaigns are more striking and interesting and cover a range of issues over various platforms.
As always, the campaigns we are highlighting this year work to educate and empower underserved communities and provide a platform for survivors to speak out and hold abusers accountable. This year, there are even more campaigns targeted at changing toxic norms and calling out institutionalised abuses.
We acknowledge that anti-VAW campaigners put themselves in perilous situations to advocate for the safety of others and we are immeasurably grateful for their bravery. From women marching the streets to women combating harassment online, each and every action, large or small, counts.
So today, in honour of all VAW activists, non-profits and grassroots groups who toil in thankless situations to bring about positive change to the lives of women and girls facing violence, we present 16 of the most striking campaigns/programmes we have come across in 2021.
What these campaigns have in common are:
- The built-in “water-cooler” factor that gets the community buzzing about the campaign and, by extension, the issue of VAW.
- A good sense of what works in and for the culture and community where the activist/non-profit/grassroots group is trying to galvanise change.
We hope that these campaigns and initiatives inspire you to take action and get on board the cause to end VAW.
It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
Note: Information for all campaigns is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources and articles. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable campaigns.
Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau. Written and researched by Anushia Kandasivam, Suloshini Jahanath and Susanna Lim. Additional research by Su-Anne Cheng.
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Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #1: Online game Digital safe-tea educates African women about digital safety – Uganda
Kampala-based civic tech organisation Pollicy this year unveiled the innovative online game Digital safe-tea which provides women with digital safety training to confront scenarios of online violence.
The game uses a “choose your own adventure” format and lets players take on the personas of young African women to progress through plot lines in which the women confront doxing, phishing, online dating scams, impersonation, revenge porn, “dogpiling” and cyber stalking. Pollicy founder and director Neema Iyer said that due to the digital gender gap, lack of opportunities for women, patriarchy, misogyny, and cultural practices, women across Africa tend to have lower digital literacy skills, making them more susceptible to online violence, which is why Pollicy aims to teach them about digital safety as online abuse worsens.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #2: Arab-Israeli men speak out about domestic violence and masculinity – Israel
Led by Palestinian rapper, screenwriter, and social activist Tamer Nafar, Arab-Israeli men are for the first time publicly breaking the silence about gender-based violence in their communities. Nafer created a unique video campaign called “Men” Talk, where men speak openly about gender-based violence and discuss the topic of masculinity in their society. In the video, Nafar, together with social worker and therapist Ibrahim Agbaria and social activist Fadi Elobra, share their own perspectives on masculinity, patriarchy, and violence, what they believe should be done to prevent violence against women in Palestinian society on a political, social, and interpersonal level, and encourage men to break the cycle of violence.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #3: Fighting female genital mutilation with a fairy tale – Kenya
Ntailan Lolkoki and her sisters enjoyed an idyllic childhood in the north of her native Kenya, until a traumatic experience occurred when she and her sisters were circumcised. Lolkoki is half Masai, and half Samburu, and according to the tradition of her tribes, girls are circumcised at the age of 12. Many girls suffer this same fate every day as female genital mutilation is practised in 28 countries across Africa. Now a Berlin-based artist, Ntailan Lolkoki wants to save girls and women from this terrible fate. To this end, she has written an African fairy tale titled The Kingdom of Watetu and Songaland. It tells the story of two tribes who live in peace with each other until the princess of the Watetu rebels against the tradition of circumcision practiced by her tribe and escapes her own circumcision. She is helped by the prince of Songaland, who rejects this practice.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #4: Art contest campaigns for radical shift in fighting sexual violence – India
The Art for Freedom campaign is part of the #DNAFightsRape–Save the Evidence citizen awareness initiative launched on November 25, 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in partnership with Delhi Police, AIIMS, and UN Women India. “Today, we live in a modern society where everything is advanced, and we need everything new and high-tech to support our life,” says Bhaswati Konwar, a third-year leather design student of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, who created the digital work that was one of the 25 nominees for the Art for Freedom prize. The art contest is aimed at emphasising the need for collecting DNA evidence to secure 100% conviction rate in rape cases.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #5: Afghan women protest Taliban restrictions on rights with #DoNotTouchMyClothes – Afghanistan
This summer, after the Taliban retook Kabul, women were told to stay at home and cover up, an early indicator that their rights and freedoms were once again under threat. After the Taliban released photos of women covered in head-to-toe black niqabs whom they say were at a rally to support the new Taliban rule, Bahar Jalali, an associate professor at Loyola University Maryland and member of the Afghan diaspora posted photos of herself on Twitter in colourful Afghan traditional dress, tagging the posts #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture. Soon, women all over Afghanistan and Afghan women overseas took to Instagram to post similar photos of themselves on Twitter and Instagram in a show of protest against their rights being eroded and in a fight for their identity, creating awareness of the impending human rights crisis in Afghanistan.
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Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #6: Made-in-Canada TikTok hand signal saves North Carolina teen – United States of America
The Canadian Women’s Foundation and a Toronto advertising agency developed the Signal for Help gesture as a way in which women facing domestic abuse can convey a message of help during a video call without leaving a digital trace, such as a text or email. The hand gesture is simple: Tuck the thumb into the palm, then cover the thumb with four fingers. The Signal was picked up by TikTok users and unexpectedly saved the life of an abducted 16-year old girl who used the one-hand gesture to alert observers that she was in a dangerous situation. A motorist in Kentucky contacted police after observing the girl in a car who seemed to be in distress and was using the gesture. Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo told CBC News: “We didn’t know what that meant. We had no idea what the TikTok signal was. But obviously the motorist did.” Police arrested the driver. James Herbert Brick, charging him with unlawful imprisonment — first-degree and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor over the age of 12 but under age 18.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #7: Police Scotland’s That Guy campaign challenges men to change their behaviour – Scotland
“Most guys don’t look in the mirror & see a problem. But it’s staring us in the face,” say a series of attractive young men in Police Scotland’s latest social campaign to tackle rape, sexual assault, and harassment. Launched in October, the That Guy campaign is striking because it directly targets men in Scotland. The video presents what seem like everyday scenarios of harassment and microaggressions that women experience and asks men if they recognise themselves in the perpetrator. Former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson said: “It shouldn’t feel unusual or refreshing to see a public information film about sexual violence that’s aimed at men and asks them to challenge their own behaviour (rather than, say, advising women how to stay safe), but it does.”
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #8: Trained beauty salon professionals in Brazil are fighting domestic violence – Brazil
An initiative in the Brazilian central-west state of Mato Grosso do Sul trained beauty salon professionals in the Mãos Empenhadas Contra a Violência (Hands Committed Against Violence) programme, to effectively identify abuse signs from their customers and encourage them to report the crime and seek help. With 272 professionals trained in the city of Campo Grande, the programme is being implemented for the first time in barber shops as well. “It is another type of conversation, this time to reach men,” says Judge Jacqueline Machado, founder of the programme. If the goal in women’s salons is to help the victims, the aim in barbershops is to prevent violence in the first place, taking the conversation to those who may be committing abuse.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #9: How a ride-sharing app is combatting missing and murdered Indigenous women – Canada
Anishinaabe artist and community activist Jackie Traverse founded Ikwe Safe Rides in 2016. The idea was simple: women who needed a ride could sign up as Ikwe members and post requests on a dedicated Facebook page. Women with a vehicle and some spare time then offered to pick them up. Within the first few days of the launch, about a dozen women volunteered to be Ikwe drivers. After four months, more than 10,000 women had registered as members. Traverse eventually left Ikwe, but in the hands of a crew of volunteer administrators, Ikwe continued to grow, and now boasts more than 18,000 members. Nearly a third of Winnipeg’s Indigenous, Inuit, and Métis women have signed on, making up 80 percent of Ikwe’s total membership. By the summer of 2019, Ikwe’s 54 volunteer drivers had given more than 75,000 rides. The goal is to ensure women who are at risk of going missing or being murdered don’t meet that fate.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #10: More than just dating: Tinder India highlights the importance of consent – India
Tinder India is highlighting the importance of consent in a powerful new brand film. with stories surrounding the concept of consent, and how disbanding consent can lead to long-lasting damage to the mental health of people. It emphasises the fact that consent goes way beyond just physical intimacy. Even more importantly, it makes a point to focus on the importance of being able to read subtle cues that partners give each other, and points out one doesn’t have to explicitly say “no”. Taru Kapoor, General Manager, India – Tinder and Match Group, said: “Consent is a foundational value for us at Tinder… In India, popular culture has been blurring the lines of consent and it’s a topic we don’t talk about enough.”
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #11: ‘Safe Bar’ training teaches restaurant and bar staff to stop sexual harassment – United States of America
Free training is being offered to bars and restaurants in the Tri-Cities in Washington, U.S., to teach staff members how to spot the signs of sexual harassment and assault. The “Safe Bar” training program is meant to create a network of safe spaces locally where employees know how to intervene. The Branch House Family Justice Centeris helping spearhead the training effort locally to reduce the risk of sexual assault and harassment in local bars and restaurants by teaching staff to be active bystanders and understand the role alcohol plays in sexual assault. “We know that alcohol is involved in 50% of sexual assaults,” said Brittany Fleenor, community response specialist for the Branch House. “Our bars and restaurants are places where people meet for the first time after they’ve met someone online, places people go for first dates or even a night out on the town with friends. These are ideal places for sexual aggressors to isolate and incapacitate their victims. I truly believe if we could get a large percentage of our bars and restaurants in Safe Bar training that it would decrease the number of drug-facilitated and especially alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults that happen in our community.”
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #12: “Lan Asket” – Women in Kuwait say they will not be silent any longer – Kuwait
In a country where the #MeToo movement has not really had an effect, the #WillNotBeSilent campaign has gained traction after Ascia Al Faraj, a Kuwaiti fashion blogger with more than 2.5 million social media followers, said in a video that there is a problem in the country. “Every time I go out, there is someone who harasses me or harasses another woman in the street,” she said, in a video she uploaded after a vehicle sped up to “scare” her while she was walking to her car. “I have had enough,” she declared, and it looks like women in Kuwait feel the same way, with dozens of testimonies about being stalked, harassed, or assaulted emerging online. Although a law against harassment exists, going to the police station to report incidents of sexual harassment is considered “ayb” or shameful and discussions around gender-based violence remain taboo. But women are pushing the boundaries of their society. “Girls don’t speak up over fears of being stigmatised, but we will not stop until we overcome this cancer in society,” Lulu Al-Aslawi, a Kuwait media personality told AFP.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #13: “Don’t Touch Me!” Indonesian fearsome threesome rage against misogyny in song – Indonesia
Written by indie pop/rock singer-songwriter Danilla, pop/R&B singer Marion Jola, and rapper Ramengvrl, this almost 5-minute song doesn’t just bend genres, but also gives voice to the suppressed rage of women who deal with perpetual injustice in their lives, including sexual abuse, violence against women, misogyny, and double standards. Inspired by their individual and shared experiences, the trio decided to go against the usual depiction of womanhood in their song, and chose the angrier and grittier route. Marion says that “The goal was not to scream out female rage. It’s really about, like, ‘Dude, we women don’t have to hold ourselves back.’”
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #14: Women’s Aid in the UK launches a new campaign to help raise awareness of coercive control
A lesser-known form of domestic abuse, coercive control is just as serious as physical abuse. Described as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”, by Women’s Aid UK, the “Not Model’s Own” campaign aims to raise awareness around this form of domestic abuse. The campaign features three different women “models” posing for what is seemingly a fashion photoshoot. However, instead of credits where the clothing, styling and photography usually are, the campaign highlights the impact of coercive control by crediting all the model’s outfits and accessories as “by model’s partner”. It goes on to also highlight warning signs of coercive control and the damage it can cause to the victims’ mental health, including anxiety, isolation, insecurities, manipulation, self-doubt, uneasiness, loneliness, desperation and alienation.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #15: “Qawem”: helping Egyptian women fight sextortion
Egyptian organisation Qawem (“Resist” in Arabic) is helping to ensure that women in Egypt do not fall victims to sextortion. Formed in 2020 by marketing manager and social media activist Mohmed Elyamani, Qawem was set up to help women confront the perpetrators of sextortion and to ensure the images they were being threatened with were destroyed. There have been an alarming number of over 250 000 appeals for help since the platform went live, showing the sheer number of women in Egypt being threatened with sextortion. Qawem helps the women by contacting the perpetrators of the crime and aiming to reach an agreement to avoid going public. The blackmailer is given a chance to send a video of himself apologising, a promise to erase all images, and to accept legal responsibility if they are made public. If he agrees, the organisation will not report him to the police. This approach has, in most cases, proved 80% effective.
Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #16: “Les Colleuses”: the French feminist activists who are fighting against femicide.
Over the past two years, messages have been popping up on the walls of the streets of France. “Stop au harcelement de rue” (stop street harassment), “Le consentement n’est pas une option” (consent isn’t optional), and “Stop féminicide”. The messages are the work of the “Les Colleuses” (the Gluers), a group of women who are using a simple but effective method to get their voices heard. In 2019, a shocking 146 women in France were killed by a partner or ex-partner. Initially dreamed up by Marguerite Stern, a former member of the feminist activist group FEMEN, Les Coulleuses was a direct response to the 2019 killing of 34 year old Julie Douib, who was shot to death at her home by an abusive ex-partner. While Stern and the group have parted ways, other members continue the fight against femicide, with the movement growing exponentially across the country. “At the last count more than 200 cities, towns and villages in France had collage groups, others in London and in more than 15 countries around the world,” says member Camille Lextray.
The picture used is a Creative Commons image: