Local to global campaigns challenging power and patriarchy

Charikleia Poucha Gender, Influencing, Violence Against Women and Girls

Chariklea Poucha and Gopika Bashi describe how co-creation, innovation & taking a feminist approach to campaigning has enabled the Enough campaign to start shifting social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the extraordinary power of people coming together to demand a fairer world. The Occupy movement highlighted the ever-increasing wealth divide. #MeToo refocused the spotlight on the sheer scale of unreported violence against women and the backlash that survivors face when they speak out. Regardless of region or scale, the impact of people-powered campaigns cannot be underestimated. Women have often been front and centre of many of these movements, putting their lives and bodies on the line in pursuit of justice. They amplify issues, influence political decisions, and mobilise groups around the world, in their homes, on the streets and online. 

The Ripple Effect

Campaigns can be triggered by an event or incident and their impact often goes far beyond the specific country where it occurred. In 2016, Berta Caceres, a land rights activist from Honduras, was murdered for opposing a hydroelectric project that threatened her people’s way of life and violated international human rights law. Her murder led to country-wide protests in Honduras, triggered global dialogues and catalysed pressure groups to demand justice. Two years after the incident, 24 Latin American and Caribbean states signed a legally-binding environmental rights pact. The pact included the protection of land rights defenders, validating the power that campaigns can have at a political and legislative level.

Not all issues were resolved, but Berta’s murder became symbolic. The campaign for her justice continues to have a ripple effect, inspiring movements across the world. Creating local to global campaigns builds solidarity across countries and regions, while also highlighting the nuances of specific contexts. When communities come together to campaign for change, they can involve different stakeholders in the planning, identify their audience more clearly, and devise multiple influencing strategies.

Learning from diverse, ‘bottom-up’ campaigns, Oxfam and partners launched their first Southern-led worldwide campaign in 2016. Enough focuses on challenging and changing the harmful social norms that justify and perpetuate all forms of violence against women and girls. This complements other campaigns that concentrate on changing policy and practice and helps address the ‘unseen’ structures that lead to the normalisation of this violence. 

From local to global in practice

The Enough campaign is now running in more than 25 countries and will eventually launch in 30 countries across the world, in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America. In contrast to centrally-coordinated global campaigns, Enough has built a change model with shared values and a common mission. However, the campaign has flexibility for countries to build and run their own national and local-level campaigns.

The key to the campaign’s impact is its focus on achieving social norm change that is relevant and context-specific to the countries where it runs. This will depend on the forms of violence and social norms that are most relevant to the local context. In this way, country teams and partners decide on the name and focus of the campaign to ensure their ownership.

At the worldwide level, the experience of countries is channelled upwards, to help influence global conversations and norms on violence against women and girls. This is done through analysing and presenting research and facilitating cross-country and cross-regional sharing and learning. This has the added value of supporting and boosting countries’ work, increasing global solidarity and bringing local, national, regional and global movements together under a common goal.

Regionally, the campaign aims to contribute to broader movement-building by creating safe, inclusive spaces for different organizations, activists and influencers. Movements come together to exchange ideas, learning and strategies on what works when challenging and changing social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls. There have been over five worldwide and regional convenings since 2016, the most recent one being the ‘#SayEnoughAsia Skillshop’ that brought together 30 activists from across Asia to share skills, strategies and tactics on campaigning against gender-based violence.

Unusual suspects 

Shifting social norms doesn’t have a single ‘call to action’. There is no one decision-maker to target, and while violence against women and girls is a global problem, the norms that justify it are nuanced and vary. Social change means understanding who perpetuates or can influence the norms, what society’s sanctions are for violating them, and which influencers could play an important role in changing them.

Involving influential and well-known public figures and institutions has generated visibility and interest in the campaign. In addition to this, over the past four years, feminist artists, rappers, singers and poets from across the world have championed the Enough campaign. Whether it is through norm-shifting feminist art on V-Day or spoken word poetry during the #SayEnoughCypher.

These strategies create platforms for debate and discussion to confront negative norms and gradually replace them with positive ones.

These nuanced ways of challenging power and patriarchy draw from each other and facilitate cross-country, regional and global level learning. Plus, the targeted norms inform the strategic direction and messaging of the worldwide campaign, rather than the other way around. In this way, Enough hopes to continue to spark multiple movements across the world, driven by a variety of actors, and provide a platform for campaigns aiming to shift social norms that justify violence against women and girls.  

For more information on the Enough campaign, visit www.sayenoughtoviolence.org


Charikleia Poucha


Gopika Bashi