Women Belong in Kitchen or How to Campaign for Gender Equality

04 Apr 2016

Georgian students organise a paintball event in Tbilisi to Georgian students organise a paintball event in Tbilisi to "delete" gender cliches. March 2014. Photo: David Khizanishvili/UNDP

Back in 2014, a UNDP-driven campaign Change Your Mind shook Georgian society with a heated debate about deep-rooted gender clichés. One morning, people in Georgian cities woke up to discover that main streets and public places were marked with hundreds of stencils which articulated most common gender stereotypes, such as: “Women belong in kitchen,” “Get married and rely on your husband to take care of you,” “A woman can’t make a good leader,” or “Politics is not for women.” In the absence of ready-made explanations about who was behind this and whether the architects of this public display actually agreed with the statements, people had to figure it out themselves and decide what they really thought of gender equality. As a result, the campaign initiated a national debate about gender roles.

In 2016, UNDP once again has come to the forefront of a public discussion about gender equality. A campaign #MyRustaveli targets youth and seeks to connect a forward-thinking philosophy of Georgia’s iconic poet of the 12th century, Shota Rustaveli, with the realities of 21st century Georgia struggling to merge democratic transformation with traditional values.

#MyRustaveli is still ongoing and it is too early to speak of the results. However, growing public attention on the campaign is a positive indication of its potential impact.  The question I want to explore is this: what makes public outreach campaigns be most effective, so that they become a powerful tool for social change?

Here are seven simple though effective tips from the #MyRustaveli team – UNDPers and and a creative group of Saatchi & Saatchi, which helps us with the design and implementation of a campaign:

1. Be clear and concise. No need to go into lengthy explanations about the goal and purpose of your campaign. People get tired and lose interest. Choose one or two clear messages and build your campaign around them.

2. But don’t be too simple. Leave something for discussion and debate. Let people come up with their own ideas and become the actors of your campaign rather than just recipients of information. 

3. Be provocative. Stir debate, leave space for different opinions to clash.

4. Use local context. No campaigns are universal. Most powerful and successful ones were designed for real people living in real places.

5. Bank on Influencers – those who are already active in the area of your interest and can affect public opinion, and Followers – those who agree with the campaign ideas but are not engaged in any action. They are the ones who can coax greater involvement from those who need to be convinced or encouraged.

6. The powerful start to a campaign is very important. But once you take it, don’t lose pace, make sure you are continuously heating up public attention and keep your audience informed and involved.  

7. Whatever you do, listen to your audience, use social media, meetings and focus groups to monitor feedback, and don’t be reluctant to adjust your messages or information channels. 

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