Interview: “We reached over 800,000 people to urge them to report violence against women”
The 2018 baseline study on Public Perceptions of Gender Equality and Violence against Women in Western Balkans and Turkey revealed that nearly one third of respondents in Kosovo* perceived domestic violence as a ‘normal’ part of any relationship. In order to promote a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women and girls (VAWG) and encourage reporting, the Kosovar Gender Studies Center implemented a behavioural change campaign entitled “Say something,” under the EU-funded regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds.” In this interview, Dafina Prekazi, Programme Manager for the Kosovar Gender Studies Center, reveals the campaign’s powerful impact and how responses to violence against women can be improved with everyone’s cooperation.
What did you set out to achieve with the “Say something” campaign?
We designed the campaign with the goal of increasing the number of cases of violence reported to authorities. We also wanted to highlight that anyone can be affected by VAWG, so everyone should have zero tolerance towards it. The campaign targeted individuals around the age of 35 who may be witnesses, neighbours or victims themselves. We succeeded in reaching over 800,000 people through events, social media and videos playing on public buses.
What has changed as a result of the campaign?
As a result of the campaign, reports of violence to the police increased more than 20 per cent – the first time that domestic violence reporting had increased since 2009. We also saw that relevant institutions were more willing to join efforts to fight violence against women and commit to changing the situation on the ground, which was reflected in the progress made in the following months in updating the legal framework addressing VAWG. In a way, the campaign helped these institutions to better understand how traditional views and behaviours on important matters can be changed.
What enabled the campaign to achieve such success?
The most important element of the campaign that enabled us to achieve success was the communication method we used to reach our audience, which is called communication for behavioural impact (COMBI). While traditional marketing campaigns use posters and other audiovisual materials to try to convince people of the importance of reporting violence, the COMBI method taught us how to connect people’s personal needs and wants with the act of reporting violence. To do this, we engaged with our audience to learn about their needs and values, as well as the factors that hindered them from reporting violence. We also looked at research we conducted in 2018 on the dominant attitudes and perceptions towards gender equality and VAWG to better understand what our audience might believe. Ultimately, what made our campaign so successful was that it focused on the needs, wants and values of the target audience and then presented the act of reporting VAWG as a way to fulfil those.
How can different stakeholders at the national and local level support survivors’ journeys to protection?
Battling violence against women requires multistakeholder coordination, including both state authorities and law enforcement institutions as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). It also requires relevant authorities to implement continuous and timely follow-up mechanisms. Despite the increase in the number of reported cases of violence through the campaign, gender-based violence remains widespread and inadequately addressed by law enforcement institutions. First and foremost, law enforcement authorities need to improve the quality of risk assessments in violence against women cases to prevent recidivism and femicide. Each report needs to be treated with reasonable suspicion followed by an adequate investigative process. Women who face violence should not face obstacles in accessing services, particularly if they are directly threatened by their abusers. Secondary victimization, which puts already traumatized victims in difficult positions, should stop. The response to VAWG can be improved through continuous cooperation between women’s rights organizations and public institutions, regular training of law enforcement institutions and establishing a clear set of procedures on responding to cases of domestic violence.
How did this campaign contribute to results that otherwise may not have been achieved?
A campaign that targets a behavioural change, specifically a sensitive one that is linked to patriarchal norms and values, would not be as successful using traditional methods. The campaign succeeded in increasing the number of reported cases, but that is only one aspect of combating VAWG. Due to the complex nature of VAWG, no single institutional effort can successfully tackle it on its own, and isolated policies are insufficient in responding to such a complex and multifaceted problem. For instance, as a follow-up step to increasing the reporting rate of VAWG, it would be great if relevant institutions would use COMBI methodology to support victims and ensure that key professionals – such as medical doctors, social workers, psychologists, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges – are gender-unbiased and focus on providing support and reassurance to victims rather than victim-blaming.
* For the European Union, this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For UN Women, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).