UN Inter-Agency Campaign to Prevent Violence against Women
The Campaign to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls has achieved significant gains with limited resources. It has demonstrated that a concerted effort can make inroads into combating social ills. Today people living all over the world view violence against women and girls as a human rights violation that must be stopped.
The shift in attention given to human rights abuses by the media and courts has been accomplished by a uniting of movements and historical circumstance. With dramatic changes in politics and information systems, many local movements have adopted universal language and worked with international counterparts to advance toward their goals. As global messages have gathered momentum, human rights issues have gained prominence.
The timing of the Regional Campaign corresponded to the push to increase the profile of human rights issues among UN Agencies and other international bodies worldwide. International and local actors have placed violence against women on national policy makers agendas. They have reframed it into an issue of universal human dignity rather than one subject to the vagaries of cultural specificity.
In most societies, including Western ones, violence against women has been seen traditionally as a private problem: the physical manifestation of family disputes over which the state had no authority. The attention paid to universal human rights abuses provided an opening in which to expose violence against women and elevate it from the position to which it has been relegated in many societies. As a result, violence against women and girls is no longer a private problem or a personal tragedy. It has a public name and face.
New social movements have taken advantage of these political opportunities to unite local issues with international human rights standards. These movements have a signatory success: they place important issues at the top of international agendas. International agendas, in turn, support standard setting to transform social movements from silent revolutions into vocal action.
International networks and public campaigns have achieved significant success through supporting national social movements. These movements have designed new strategies to target powerful international actors with influence over policy. In the context of increased global trends and decreased public influence on the part of local constituencies, social change networks are learning and implementing new and innovative techniques for setting agendas and making their voices heard. Most importantly, these networks have presented human rights debates in ways that draw strength from the genuine universal principle of human dignity which exists in most cultures throughout the world (Kek & Sikkink, 1998).
The passing of 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet despite increased acceptance of these standards, the tension between local traditions and universal principles still exists. Promoting human rights through legal instruments does not necessarily resonate among populations without strong legal traditions, and legislation that promotes human rights can be viewed as invasive. Viewing human rights principles as issues of human dignity makes the basic principles more palatable to a more diverse group of people.
Acts of violence violate human dignity and make the connection between preservation of dignity and prevention of violence against women and girls clear. Promoting human rights as an aspect of human dignity also furthers the agenda to prevent violence against women. Thus, the Campaign to Prevent Violence against Women, carries an intercultural message that unites women and men against violence.
The UNDP portion of the Campaign has provided a rallying point for local movements and lent an international profile to these campaigns throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It helped these movements achieve recognition and push forward the reforms they have promoted. Without this support, these movements may have lost themselves in local bureaucracy, patron/client relations and traditional cultural paradigms.
External actors such as intergovernmental agencies act as watchdogs, requesting adherence to promises and facilitating collaboration that subsequently supports government actions. Intervention of this type also provides support to those within governments or other organizations who would like to pursue similar changes, but have been blocked by competing priorities in the governments within which they work. Additionally, widespread institutional involvement in the Inter-Agency Campaign has helped to mainstream the movement to prevent violence against women and girls by broadening participating constituencies at local and international levels. By making this an Inter-Agency Campaign, constituencies and institutions may have been engaged which, otherwise, the traditional womens movement would not necessarily have accessed.
Based on campaign successes, we would like to highlight three primary elements of this initiative:
We cannot overstate the importance of effective partnerships. Public partnerships pressure political actors to stand for the issues their constituencies support. Greater collaboration among governmental, nongovernmental and intergovernmental agencies therefore provides leverage for social movements to claim their gains.
Regardless of the extent to which universal values resonate with universal populations, no divide can be crossed without concerted efforts and concrete plans to change public perception. New social movements have made gains through effective collaboration between service delivery and advocacy organizations. While service delivery organizations are critical in dealing with the symptoms of violence, advocacy organizations are critical for raising awareness about the causes of violence and ultimately eliminating these causes.
Successful public education campaigns are predicated on delivering one clear message via multiple venues and a variety of public media. The Campaign to Prevent Violence against Women has taken varied approaches on national levels to eradicate the same public scourge.
The following excerpts provide examples of innovative programs selected from national campaigns in Latin America and the Caribbean. For a comprehensive list of the achievements of the Campaign, please see national campaigns.
Raising the profile of critical social issues, signing and ratifying international treaties accomplishes little without simultaneous substantive changes in national legal frameworks. The Campaign provided a clear goal toward which UN agencies and other groups were able to collaborate in instances where their collective strengths may not have translated into decisive action. Through the Campaign, many of the governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have also taken steps to reform the laws that protect women from violations of their rights and dignity.
Although many of these governments have made significant gains in defining and criminalizing acts of violence against women, Ecuador, particularly, has provided an excellent example of the advances made in domestic legal reform. The following points highlight these reforms:
Press releases, articles, interviews and stories raise the profile of campaign issues from the national to the international level, and from the private to the public level. This section presents 10 articles, press releases and newspaper articles that have done just that. The articles were produced for and distributed to all resident coordinators, UN media and gender focal points prior to each designated UN day. Guatemala launched an innovative media section of the campaign. Some highlights are listed here:
Training programs have provided essential information and raised awareness among government officials and the military regarding key issues relating to prevention of violence against women. In Peru:
A workshop was held entitled: "Situation and Proposals to End Violence Against Women", organized and financed by UNFPA/Peru. Various national networks and UN agencies participated. The workshop addressed issues in the areas of legal reform, education, communication and coordination in addition to launching special projects.
Public awareness campaign items
All effective public education campaigns rely on campaign slogans and products promoting these slogans. By seeing and using the Campaign symbols, the issues enter into the everyday lives of the public and gain currency as a collective goal. Brazil produced and launched many innovative campaign products. Some highlights are listed here:
Special projects. Many countries established their own special project to correspond to local needs and resources. Nicaragua used existing local networks and interests to focus resources on examining violence against women in an innovative and collaborative way.