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June 28, 2013

Who Counts? An Inclusive Vision for Ending Gender-Based Violence

What is gender-based violence? Who experiences it? What and who gets left out of mainstream definitions? The groups Mama Cash funds are not only committed to ending violence, but are also redefining and challenging the very definition of what violence is, including who experiences it. To capture the lessons from this ground-breaking work, Mama Cash has developed a report that documents the work of 27 groups around the world.

‘Who Counts? An Inclusive Vision for Ending Gender-Based Violence'  highlights the successful strategies activists Who counts?are using to address instances of gender-based violence, which takes many different forms. Three examples of these strategies are:

Arts and direct action

The use of creative, visual approaches to activism in public - such as art, street theatre and flash mobs - can be both memorable and reach beyond the usual audiences. In addition, it sends a powerful message that  people who are often invisible have a right to public space.

For example, one goal of the One in Nine Campaign in South Africa is to highlight the exclusion of black lesbians from low-income communities from the broader LGBTI movement in South Africa. One strategy the group used in October 2012 was to lie in the path of an LGBTI pride march that had been predominantly organised by middle-class, white South Africans. The protest was a powerful and visual strategy to claim space within the LGBTI movement and opened up a broader conversation about racism within this movement.

Changing the language

How we use language is not only a reflection of society's ideas and beliefs, but can also help shape them. Many of our grantees challenge prejudicial and stigmatising language, and promote using words and meanings that are important to them, and that reflect the realities of their lives and identities.

For example, Empower Foundation Chiang Mai, a sex workers' rights group in Thailand, developed the ‘Empower Dictionary', which lists the words that sex workers use to describe themselves. The group uses the dictionary at meetings or press conferences to challenge people's use of language that promotes stereotypes and prejudice.

Broadening the leadership base
A common challenge in many organisations is that the leadership is often concentrated in the hands of just one or two people. Shared leadership, particularly with younger members and constituencies, can be an effective way of embracing diversity and ensure the sustainability of the work.

For example, the Namibian Women's Health Network advocates for the health rights of women. One method the group uses is to organise dialogues for HIV-positive women. The leadership of the organisation noticed the absence of younger women from these dialogues and partnered with a young woman that is passionate about working to end the violence and exclusion faced by women living with HIV. As a result, 30 other young women have become active in organising workshops and campaigns, and raising national and international awareness about the coerced sterilisation of HIV positive women.

Learning for change

We hope that Who Counts?  will provide greater insight into the incredible work that is being done by women, girls, and trans groups around the world, to end gender-based violence. By documenting these amazing examples of activism we hope to inspire further action and contribute to the ongoing learning of the social justice philanthropy sector, and of women's rights and feminist movements around the world.