Bright Ideas ☼ 5 Creative Campaigns That Shine a Spotlight on Global Women’s Issues


Photo Credit: UN Photo / Tim McKulka

Women make up half of the world’s population, and thus are said to hold up half the sky. They are arguably the largest untapped, natural resource on the planet. But in far too many places, women are treated as second-class citizen or, worse, as chattel. In far too many places, women are the victims of unspeakable violence. In far too many places, women are denied an education, a career, a voice in politics, and control over the most basic aspects of their lives.

The good news is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations around the world working to end gender-based violence and gender inequality.  Some of the most successful organizations are those that leverage the power of the internet to raise awareness, raise money and raise the standard of living for millions of girls and women. This post acknowledges the efforts of all such organizations and shines a spotlight on 5 creative and inspiring campaigns that  focus on global gender issues, such as education, awareness, safety, economic independent, empowerment and equality.

This is part of an ongoing series.  Feel free to use the comments below to suggest other innovative campaigns that deserve recognition. Stay tuned for more … 



The central moral challenge of our time is reaching a tipping point. Just as slavery was the defining struggle of the 19th century and totalitarianism of the 20th, the fight to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide defines our current century.

Hidden in the overlapping problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality is the single most vital opportunity of our time — and women are seizing it. From Somaliland to Cambodia to Afghanistan, women’s oppression is being confronted head on and real, meaningful solutions are being fashioned. Change is happening, and it’s happening now.

Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn took on this urgent moral challenge in 2009 with their acclaimed best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (already in its 25th printing in hardback). They encouraged readers all over the world to do the same.

Now, a landmark movement — inspired by Kristof and WuDunn’s work and also entitled Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide — is working to amplify the book’s impact. Ignited by a high-profile national television event and fueled by innovative multi-platform initiatives, such as Facebook Games and Mobile Games, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is galvanizing even more people to join the burgeoning movement for change.



The NO MORE PSA Campaign, spearheaded by the Joyful Heart Foundation in partnership with NO MORE and directed by actress and advocate, Mariska Hargitay, involves more than 50 celebrities and public figures asking bystanders to get involved. After 18 months in development, with critical input from domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, we are excited to launch this campaign.

In September 2013, a three-year PSA campaign was rolled out across the country in local and national markets via print, broadcast, online and outdoor advertising and in major airports and medical facilities. The Ad Council’s Endorsed Campaign program has endorsed the campaign, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation is also helping generate awareness. Other major partnerships include Viacom, Lifetime Television, ConnectiVISION Digital Networks/ClearVISION and OK TV!.



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Catapult, a U.S.-based crowdfunding site, released three spoof magazine covers –Child Bride, Good Slavekeeping and Thirteen – on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2014) as a way of suggesting that females should be more than just a “cover story”. It is brilliant not just for raising awareness about victims of sex trafficking, slavery and child marriage, but for inverting the typical media approach to International Women’s Day, where inspirational women make magazine covers promoting a good cause, or even just themselves. Role models are all well and good, of course, but sometimes the reality of so many female lives is better.

Maz Kessler, Catapult’s founder and creative director, says: “Thankfully, these are fake magazines. Unfortunately, these are real problems.” The campaign was launched to stress that International Women’s Day is “more than just a cover story.”

Here are the reasons given for why:
• 14m girls — some as young as eight years old — will be married against their will in 2014.

• An estimated 1.2m children are trafficked into slavery each year; 80% are girls.

• In New York City, the average age at which a girl first becomes a victim of commercial sexual exploitation is 13.

More Than Just a Cover Campaign

About Catapult: Catapult was developed by the non-profit organization Women Deliver in 2011 to redress the fact that so little money goes to women and girls, despite studies showing how effective such donations would be. Maz Kessler and Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver, had looked for the opportunity for a new innovative fund for girls and women. In early 2011, they decided the time was right to explore the development of a new fund. With Women Deliver as the institutional base, they started designing and building Catapult. The goal was to create a place where anyone can invest in girls and women and help move the world towards gender equality. Catapult takes no money from the donations made to the projects it supports. For more info, visit


he-for-she-logoIn a campaign from the United Nations that seeks to promote women’s rights, there is not a woman in sight – and that is deliberate. The strategy behind the campaign, which is to begin on Friday morning, is revealed by its theme, “He for she” – in other words, men ought to stand up for the rights of the women of the world who are their mothers, sisters and daughters.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a website,, where visitors can watch a video clip meant to serve as a teaser that introduces the initiative. The clip features several famous men urging support for gender equality, including the celebrities such as Matt Damon, Antonio Banderas, Patrick Stewart, and Desmond Tutu and the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.


Ban BossyRecent studies confirm the widely-held belief that words have power and meaning, especially during the critical early grade-school years, when boys and girls alike are developing their sense of self and finding their place in the world. According to the Girl Scouts Research Institute Ban Bossy National Youth Poll 2014, more than a third of girls who are called “bossy” lose interest in leading and stop making decisions or suggestions.

Children begin to establish gender role stereotypes as early as 2 years old and generate an emerging career identity by middle school. As early as the third grade, girls report anxiety about taking leadership roles, become overly concerned about pleasing others and aspire to be perfect. By the time they reach middle school, the damage is done. And that is a loss for all of us.

This is why at Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez teamed up with Facebook’s COO & Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to launch their joint “Ban Bossy” campaign: a call for society to stop calling girls who exhibit leadership “bossy” and instead encourage and reward those behaviors the same way we would for boys. When we refer to a girl who demonstrates leadership qualities as “bossy,” she receives a message she is doing something wrong, that somehow, the same behaviors we praise and reward in boys are inappropriate for her, and we are limiting the scope of her potential as a result.

It’s time to redirect the power of words to girls themselves, so that “girl” and “leader” mean one and the same. It’s time to “Ban Bossy.”


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