Blog Post by Marike Hermens
“The hardest thing to change in a society is what is considered normal”, a quote Brigitte Obertop was told by Mozambican
women. On the 8th of December Share-Net Netherlands, together with Oxfam Novib, RNW Media and Simavi, organized an Expert Meeting focusing on addressing social norms to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV).
An inspiring day-long event hosted by Nicolien Zuijdgeest, where we listened, debated and danced together for social change! The day was kick-started with the launch of the “Enough: Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls”campaign of Oxfam by Brigitte Obertop. The aim of this campaign to challenge and replace the long held misconception that men are superior to women and girls set the tone for the rest of the day and activated the room full of activists. To learn more about this campaign click here.
Deepali Vandana (Founder Urja TRUST), Renée Römkens (CEO ATRIA), Heather Cole (Technical Advisor, International Rescue Committee) and Susan Blankhart (Special Advisor Women Rights, MFA) participated in the panel discussion about what works in changing social norms against GBV. Legally speaking the rights of women are ensured, but there remains a gap between what is written on paper and what happens in practice. Public awareness is the key, as we keep ‘forgetting’ the massive number of cases relating to violence against women. It is not part of our collective memory. The feeling of victims being an exception needs to be replaced with a claiming voice in the public domain and in the collective memory. In order to do this, we need to change the social and cultural norms that support GBV. Dr. Beniamino Cislaghi (assistant professor in Social Norms, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) introduced us to this topic in a stimulating session. He explained that norms are not an on-and-off switch, but interact in systems and have an (in)direct relationship with behaviour. In order to have successful interventions we therefore need to understand the role of norms in society and integrate these norms into our strategies.
With the start of the afternoon program, participants could attend different workshops. RNW Media taught us in the workshop on social media that this is a significant platform of opportunities for women to claim their voice. Social media offers many possibilities, but it can also have an effect in a negative way, so we need to be careful with how we use it. The second workshop was an interactive session on impact measurement of change.
To energize ourselves after an intensive day of listening and debating, Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni (International Consultant-Trainer Feminine & Masculine Capital) took us on a journey to experience the physical body. Our bodies can be used as weapons of change by re-taking our inner strengths through the ‘Dance of the Goddesses’. By dancing we learned to free our primal force and reclaim our own lives by connecting our bodies to our mind.
Overall it was an inspiring event, where we learned more about the complexity of social norms on GBV. “We are searching for the silver bullets that will create change, but we as the ‘experts’ do not even know what these bullets are”, as one member of the audience noted. In order to address social norms we need to acknowledge that it is a complex term and understand what they entail. Dr. Beniamino Cislaghi showed us the right way forward. We need to use the momentum and keep moving!