Global Women’s Institute Makes International Impact

The institute recently recognized organizations in Thailand, South Africa and the United States for their innovative tools that advocate for an end to violence against women.

September 25, 2017

Kogan Plaza

By Kristen Mitchell

The George Washington University Global Women’s Institute recently named three winners of the 2017 Communications X-Change Awards, an annual international competition designed to share communications materials aimed at ending violence against women and girls. The awards went to advocacy organizations from Thailand, South Africa and the United States.

Entrants from 30 countries around the world contributed over 100 original works this year, which were evaluated and shared within the community. A panel of expert judges selected the three winners, who will receive three separate awards for a total of $9,000 in prize money.

The winners are a video called “Stopping Violence Before It Starts” by South African-based organization What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls; the “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” toolkit by the U.S.-based National Sexual Violence Resource Center; and Thailand’s Active Bystander public service announcement by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The “Stopping Violence Before It Starts” video was produced as an advocacy and educational tool to explain the elements of violence prevention, why it is important and what works to stop violence before it starts.

The sexual assault awareness toolkit educates communities about sexual violence and  how to prevent it during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

The UN Women public service announcement uses innovative technology that encourages viewers to choose who will be an active bystander during an uncomfortable moment on public transportation.

All of these materials and more are housed on the GWI-based Communications X-Change, an online library of audio and visual materials contributed by organizations and individuals from around the world who are working to end violence against women and girls. The X-Change is an innovative approach for building a strong worldwide movement and for sharing local initiatives designed to reduce violence, promote gender equality and change social norms, according to GWI.

“The Communications X-Change program’s global scope ensures that advocates in every country only need an Internet connection to access materials that could help their local community,” said Chelsea Ullman, GWI policy associate. GWI recently took on a leading role in the project, which was founded by Futures Without Violence, and received submissions from all regions of the world, she said.

“It highlights how diverse this resource is,how much good work is being done around the world, and how much we can learn from one another,” Ms. Ullman said.

GWI is highlighting its contributions to a growing body of research on violence against women and girls in conflict zones and a commitment to global information sharing on the international stage.

GWI staff, including founding director Mary Ellsberg, traveled last week to Rio de Janeiro for the 2017 Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum. The fifth biennial international forum brought together researchers, advocates, survivors and other stakeholders who are working to understand, prevent and respond to sexual and intimate partner violence.

University experts presented groundbreaking research on violence against women and girls in South Sudan, the world’s newest country that has been shrouded in civil war for several years. Researchers completed the first large-scale population-based study on violence against women and girls in South Sudan and presented different components of their findings at several panels throughout the forum. The report will be released at a launch event at GW at the end of November.

Dr. Ellsberg also presented findings from a 2016 study about violence against women and girls in Nicaragua. The research followed up on a prevalence study Dr. Ellsberg led in 1995, which was the first of its kind in Central America. The recent study aims to determine whether a combination of social activism, policy and legal reforms could improve women’s safety and well-being within a generation.

“This work feeds into a broader goal of the Institute, which is to research these under-researched areas and build the knowledge base around issues and regions that don’t get a lot of attention,” Ms. Ullman said. “Only when you have data can you craft programs that will respond to violence against women and girls.”

GWI staff invites anyone interested in their work to attend either of two open house events in October. GWI is hosting an open house from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 in collaboration with Colonials Weekend at its 2140 G St. NW location. An annual fall open house is also scheduled at the same location for the afternoon of Oct. 24.