Provide rights-based education and awareness
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Provide rights-based education and awareness

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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Many women and girls are not aware of laws on violence against women, of their legal rights, or how to exercise these rights. “Legal awareness” is necessary for women in all nations so that they can affirmatively claim their rights. When NGOs provide legal awareness programs for women and girls, NGOs can benefit due to:

  • Increased community trust in the NGO.
  • Increase in use of NGO services.
  • Valuable information obtained from new NGO clients (Bordat and Kouzzi, 2009).

Steps to improving legal awareness for women and girls include:

  • Determine legal awareness needs of women and girls to more effectively target efforts and ensure greater participation. Surveys, women’s NGOs, and legal assistance clinics may be good sources of information on needs.

Colombia – Legal Awareness Project Provides Hotline for Potential Trafficking Victims

In Colombia, a survey was conducted to determine what factors make someone vulnerable to human trafficking. It found that a victim might fit this profile:

  • She will accept high levels of risk to pursue a job or a marriage.
  • She is extremely eager to advance in her career in a short time.
  • She is under pressure from her family and friends to improve her financial situation.

Based upon these results, the International Office for Migration (IOM) Mission in Colombia designed an awareness and prevention campaign which provided all Colombians with a hotline to support informed job offer decisions. Success was demonstrated by a 400% increase in calls to the hotline in just one year.

Source: International Organization for Migration Mission in Colombia. 2006. Dimensiones de la trata de personas en Colombia.

  • Prioritize legal awareness programming based upon actual needs of women. Develop materials with input from local NGOs and women.

CASE STUDY: Producing a Resource Manual on Violence against Women with Disabilities

 A report by Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) describes the steps in planning and producing a resource manual on violence against women and disabilities:

  • Establish a project reference group made up of women with disabilities.
  • Develop the project plan.
  1. Publicize the project and develop promotional flyers. For example, WWDA organized a systematic plan for distribution in every state and territory in Australia, to disability organizations, educational institutions and to politicians. WWDA created a comprehensive electronic mailing list.
  2. Develop the framework for the resource manual, based upon the needs of the individuals and the services required. For example, framework goals included an easy-to-handle end product that could be easily posted, and economically printed. The manual would contain:

- Information on how women’s refuges and crisis services could develop services and programmes for women with disabilities.

- Information about women with disabilities tailored for service providers as well as the broader community.

- An annotated bibliography of resource materials.

- Stories, poetry, and artwork from disabled women who have experienced violence, including strategies to escape the violence. Examples of flyers soliciting input are included in the report.

- A guide to services at the state/territory, regional, and national level.

Four books were developed for the Resource Manual: More Than Just a Ramp; It’s Not OK It’s Violence; A Life Like Mine! narratives from women with disabilities who experience violence; and Forgotten sisters: a global review of violence against women with disabilities.

The group also developed a feedback/evaluation form. Questions included:

  • Is the language used in the manual easy to understand?
  • What did you find most useful?
  • Is there any area we haven’t covered?

They gave careful consideration to producing the information in accessible formats, and consulted with Vision Australia, a leading provider of blindness and low vision services. The Resource Manual is available in the following formats:

  • CD Audio Master
  • Large Print PDF
  • Braille
  • E-text
  • MP3 Audio file
  • DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) format

The project had a number of positive outcomes, including the establishment of a national conference on women and disabilities, and a day-long summit on violence against women with disabilities. 

To order a CD-ROM of the Resource Manual, contact wwda@wwda.org.au.

Source: Women With Disabilities Australia. 2007.  ‘Development of a Resource Manual on Violence Against Women With Disabilities’.

  • Plan interventions based on country context. For example, for countries with lower levels of female literacy, it may be most appropriate to plan a series of radio broadcasts or street theater productions.
  • Strategically plan for implementation of rights-based education at the local, regional, and national level if possible. For example, see the Combating Domestic Violence Against Women: National Action Plan 2007-2010 of the Republic of Turkey, Goal on Awareness Raising and Mental Transformation with detailed Activities, Responsible Parties, Partners, and an Implementation Phase.  If resources are scarce, concentrate on the local level and the most disadvantaged women and girls.
  • Interventions should involve both providing information on laws on violence against women and on how to obtain assistance for victims of violence. For example, Women’s Rights Awareness Programme (WRAP) Kenya, provides publications on Know Your Rights, A Best Practice Guide on Gender-Based Violence, and a Service Directory, among other publications, which it distributes free of charge.
  • Plan proactive dissemination of information to women and girls to help them to avoid becoming victims of violence.
Example: a multi-media awareness campaign for women's rights was conducted in Kirkuk, Iraq, in areas where internally displaced women from low economic and social backgrounds live. Topic addressed includes forced marriage, the right to education, and political participation. Posters and booklets featuring simple stories illustrated by humorous caricatures were printed and distributed to targeted areas. Radio shows also discussed the awareness campaign. Source: UNIFEM. 2006. Promoting Women’s Rights in Kirkuk.
  • Plan similar information campaigns for men and boys to begin to change social and cultural norms around gender equality and violence. See the full module on working with Men and Boys.
  • Use a variety of communication strategies, such as paralegals, information kiosks at market locations and health care provider locations, creative brochures, fliers, and posters, and presentations at local churches, schools, and preschools.

Kenya – Training for Key Stakeholders on New Sexual Offences Act

Kenya passed a new Sexual Offences Act in 2006. With the passage of the Act, a former Minister of Parliament began a process of undertaking awareness campaigns to ensure implementation of the Act at all levels within the Kenyan society through CLICK (Centre for Legal Information and Communication in Kenya), a human rights NGO at which she is a chairperson. CLICK developed a programme that targets school girls with legal information about the provisions of the legislation. CLICK works through school clubs to provide one-day trainings for girls that match education on provisions of the new law (especially those related to reporting) with other types of education including self-defense training and career development. The programme also attempts to match young women with adult women as mentors. Because members of CLICK’s board of directors have been or are influential members of the Kenyan Parliament, CLICK draws on their networks to find mentors for young women.

CLICK has been involved in training of judges (in collaboration with Kenya Women Judges Association, CLICK was instrumental in the development of a training manual for judicial officers on the Sexual Offences Act), parliamentarians, and provincial administrators on the provisions of the new law. Provincial administrators, including district officers and local chiefs, are often the first people to hear about crimes of sexual violence committed in the rural areas. Although a comprehensive programme evaluation has not been completed, CLICK notes that anecdotal experience demonstrates that the training and awareness-raising has made a difference in public attitudes about sexual violence. Girls appear more willing to report violence and the justice system takes the cases more seriously, specifically in the form of more severe sentences for perpetrators.

Source: Interview with Felix Makoyo, Executive Director, CLICK (March 2011).

  • Use pre-existing social networks such as small loan enterprises, mother’s groups, and other, informal groups as entry points for presenting legal awareness information.
Example: The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) provides legal training to groups of women facing similar legal issues, enabling them to represent themselves in magistrate-level court proceedings. The Zimbabwe Widows and Orphans Trust Project facilitates weekly discussions, called “Widows’ Days,” during which widows meet with judges to inform them of the challenges they face (United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 2005).
  • Train young people to serve as peer leaders in schools. For example, Canada has launched a pilot project entitled “Addressing Sexual Violence Prevention through Civic Engagement and Resource Development.” The project is aimed at high-school-age young women and will be delivered by peer leaders who will provide preliminary information and encourage participation in confidential community forums with civic leaders and service providers (Email with Patricia MacIntosh, on file with The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011).

Indonesia – Volunteers provide legal assistance

Justice for the Poor and Perempuan Kepala Keluarga have started a Women’s Legal Empowerment Programme in certain provinces. Trained community volunteers provide information on issues involving divorce, inheritance and employment rights, domestic violence, and children’s rights, and help in filing petitions to female heads-of-households. The programme brings in representatives from the justice sector and local government for group consultations and question-and-answer periods. The women have stated that “…meeting legal officers through [the Programme] reduces their anxiety about the legal procedure.”

Source: World Bank. 2007. A Framework for Strengthening Access to Justice in Indonesia.

  • Present information in appropriate languages.

India- Raising Legal Awareness

The NGO Marg in New Delhi, India, has a Legal Literacy Programme for which it produces  a variety of legal awareness training materials, including books, manuals, posters, pamphlets, radio plays, and films. Marg has written a series of legal manuals in Hindi (Hamare Kanoon) and in English (Our Laws) which explain 25 laws in easy-to-understand language. Marg has produced 10 films, Bol Bosanto, that utilize songs and action to facilitate interest. Marg has also developed a series of audio cassettes based on the films.

Marg conducts legal literacy workshops for rural, urban, and student populations. The workshops are planned for about 30 people and incorporate interactive strategies such as games, songs, role-plays, and the Bol Bosanto films.  Marg also conducts training programmes for trainers, students, and volunteers who will bring legal awareness to remote areas.

In one success story, a partner NGO revealed that shortly after Marg conducted a legal literacy workshop, two of the NGO workers had been raped. Armed with the new information about their rights, the victims lodged a complaint and the case is being pursued in court.

To order copies of the training materials, contact Marg at marg@ngo-marg.org.

Source: Rani. 2011. Legal Awareness: Why It Is a Necessity.

  • Ensure that information is disseminated among minority populations, including migrant women and girls.
  • Present information for non-literate populations and populations with special needs. 

For example, see the film Raising Women’s Legal Awareness Through Film- Tsunami (International Development Law Organization, 2007)

  • Present information appropriate to country context. For example, based on local fact-finding, two recommendations of a report on rape in Namibia called for civil society organizations to develop and distribute brochures on the criminality of obstructing the prosecution of a rape case, and on the concept that compensation schemes and criminal prosecutions of rape are not mutually exclusive (Legal Assistance Centre, 2009).
  • Present information in a user-sensitive way; for example, the outside of the brochure should be innocuous and non-threatening so that a woman might pick it up without feeling exposed. Specific information on what to do if one is a victim of violence should be listed on interior pages.
  • Present information on how to access legal services so that women and girls understand:
    • where to go for help depending upon the type of violence they have experienced;
    • court locations;
    • a step-by-step example of filing a complaint;
    • a case process;
    • a list of women’s NGOs that provide legal services; and
    • contact information for victim advocacy services.
  • Provide information on how a woman could seek justice without a lawyer.
  • Provide web-based resources in addition to more traditional sources such as radio and television. For example, the United Kingdom has a website on Community Legal Advice. 
  • Include graphic representations, videos, and audio resources in website materials to extend knowledge to non-literate women and girls. For example, La Dynamique des femmes juristes, Democratic Republic of Congo, discusses issues of access to justice for women who are victims of violence on the radio here. See the Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition here.

India – Legal Awareness through VIDEO SEWA

The organization SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) in India has implemented a grass-roots programme in which community members make videos on legal, economic, or social concerns which affect them personally. A number of their members are non-literate or low-literate. The process of framing the issue, filming the participants, and showing the film publicly serves as a valuable training tool and promotes legal reform. SEWA programmes also use videos to educate women on the court process. For example, a group of women who make cigarettes had to testify in court. To prepare them for hostile questioning by opposing attorneys, SEWA videotaped a mock court proceeding as a teaching tool, which greatly increased the women’s confidence.

SEWA’s standards in determining whether to use videos:

1. Set goals for using video as a tool in your organization.

2. Assess these goals. Critically and honestly analyze whether video is the best medium to achieve these goals. It is very easy to be dazzled by the technology and forget the difficulties.

3. Does your organization need videotape or a video unit to achieve these goals?

4. Does your organization have the human and financial resources to introduce video? To start a video unit anticipate the following:

- funding needs for equipment, training, and follow-up and operational activities

- equipment needs

- training needs

- time for skills to cement

- keep expectations within reach

5. To plan a video unit carefully think about the questions below:

- Who needs the tools and why?

- Who will use the video and how?

- How will video meet the organization's needs?

- Who will learn video? (This is very important for long term

- Who will provide training?

- Who can be resources/problem solvers?

- What equipment will be needed?

- How will maintenance and repairs be achieved/financed?

- Who will coordinate video activities?

6. Can the organization sustain video over time?

7. Does the organization have the necessary resources to meet the demands video will create?

8. How will video be evaluated? When? By whom?

For descriptions of video projects by SEWA on issues of violence against women see Sharing Her Story and Taking a Stand. Through Our Eyes is a video workshop project which uses local actors and languages to address issues of gender-based violence response and prevention, including legal aid, counseling, and medical services for survivors of conflict-related countries. The initiative is sponsored by American Refugee Committee and Communication 4 Change. To see a video of the first workshop, click here.

  • Provide timely knowledge for potential victims. For example, in the context of providing information on sex trafficking, provide information at job-hunting sites, hotels, airports and other transit locations and in places such as want ads, employment bureaus, or travel agencies.
  • Use input from non-lawyer communication experts to present legal information, including input from women’s NGOs. For example, the graphic artists behind the Paraguayan website wrote and illustrated seven different stories about violence against women and girls, including sexual harassment, domestic violence, incest, sexual exploitation of children, and female genital mutilation. These gritty, realistic, graphic stories present many aspects of a victim’s dilemma and are followed by concrete steps to leave a violent situation, contact numbers for help, tips on increasing security for those who stay with the offender, tips for preparing to leave safely, and tips for increasing the safety of the children. Spanish.
  • Partner with government officials to disseminate legal information. Many governments recognize their obligation to provide legal awareness for women yet may be unwilling or unable to implement specific strategies to meet it. Working with governments may ensure sustainability of efforts and may improve wider dispersal of programmes.
  • Extend awareness of legal needs to the community. Individual women who have been educated on legal awareness may be better equipped and motivated to demand services for survivors of violence for their community (UNDP, 2005).
  • Provide opportunities for local media to publicize legal awareness programmes with letters to the editor and press releases.

Armenia – TV Show Increases Legal Literacy

In Armenia, surveys revealed that the population not only distrusted the judiciary but also knew very little about their legal rights. In 2003, the World Bank and the Ministry of Justice launched a television show called “My Right” with the aim of increasing legal knowledge. The show was hosted by the Deputy Minister of Justice, featuring a mock trial based on real court cases. Judges, attorneys, law students, and other experts discuss legal matters covering a wide range of topics, including property law, family law and other areas. In 2005, two attorneys from the Women’s Rights Center of Armenia appeared on the show. “My Right” has become extremely popular throughout the country, and there is anecdotal evidence that citizens are more interested in legal matters, have voiced an increased demand for legal services, and are using knowledge gained on the show to protect their rights. Additionally, there is emerging evidence that the show has increased public trust in the judiciary. Source: World Bank. 2005. Court TV for Armenia.



Programmers should consider the special circumstances and greater barriers to justice experienced by girls and incorporate this knowledge into legal awareness programming.  Challenges faced by girl victims of violence may include:

  • Lack of legal standing.
  • Lack of support as a holder of rights from adults.   
  • Economic and physical dependence upon adults.
  • Difficulty in understanding judicial processes.
  • Lack of formal or informal education on rights.
  • Perpetrator may be from immediate family, thus girl might be unwilling to disclose the crime and others may be unwilling to believe her for fear of reprisal or social stigmatization.

Strategies to address the need for legal awareness of girl victims of violence include:

  • Providing information about legal rights in school curriculums.
  • Providing alternative sources of information for girls not in school, such as sewing or other youth clubs or health centers.
  • Using peer advocate programs to disseminate information. Girls may be more likely to seek information and assistance from locally-run and familiar programme sources.
  • Supplementing all sources of information with concrete strategies for enforcing their rights, such as legal clinic or child rights center contact information and paralegals with training on the rights of girls.
  • Providing information in remote and poverty-stricken areas.
  • Providing a wide range of support services for girl victims of violence.(Grandjean, 2010).


Tools for Promoting Legal Awareness:

Practical Guide and Methods to Advance Women's Legal Rights (The Women’s Legal Rights Initiative, 2007). English.

Addressing Gender-Based Violence Through Community Empowerment (Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia, 2008). Provides information on gender-based violence, discussion questions for community meetings, suggestions for group actions, and a summary of important points and laws for community use, in a user-friendly manual with examples specific to Namibian context but which are adaptable for use in many countries. English.

Legal Awareness Programme (The National Commission on Women, India) includes objectives, subject matters, and a budget for a 2-day programme. English.

Pocket Guide: The Combating of Domestic Violence Act (Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia, 2008). English.

Pocket Guide: The Combating of Rape Act (Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia, 2008). English.

Handbook for Civil Society Partners: Community Education and Awareness Program on the Rule of Law (Ministry of Justice, Liberia, and the Carter Center, 2008). English.

A Guide on Domestic Violence (The Cradle-The Children’s Foundation, Kenya, 2004). Information on myths and realities of domestic violence and basic legal information for victims. English.

A Guide on Female Genital Mutilation (The Cradle-The Children’s Foundation, Kenya, 2004). Information on myths and realities of female genital mutilation and basic legal information. English.

Child Sex Abuse (The Cradle- The Children’s Foundation, Kenya, 2006). Information on myths and prevalence of child sexual abuse and on what to do if child sex abuse is suspected. English.

A Standard Survey Instrument on Legal Awareness, Appendix IV,p. 95, Legal Empowerment for Women and Disadvantaged Groups (The Asia Group, 2009). The survey is on shelter, water, and health but is easily adaptable to violence against women and girls. English.


Tools on Media Training:

Training Manual for Gender Sensitization of Media on Violence against Women (Participatory Development Initiatives, Pakistan). A detailed tool for workshop presenters that provides objectives, preparatory work, interactive group activities, handouts, discussion points, and more. English

How to Report Culture, Religion and Gender, a Training Manual for the Media (Inter Press Service, South Africa, 2002). English.

Gender, HIV and Rights: A Training Manual for the Media (Inter Press Service International Association, Italy, 2003). English.


Tools for women with disabilities:

Women, Disability and Violence: Strategies to Increase Physical and Programmatic Access to Victims’ Services for Women with Disabilities (McClain, 2011). Available in English.

SafePlace, Responding to Violent Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities: A Manual for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, Judges, and Court Personnel Provides a toolkit to help criminal justice system professionals, attorneys, judges, and law enforcement officers more effectively respond to, investigate, and prosecute crimes against people with disabilities. Provides information about disabilities and disability etiquette; the dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault, and caregiver abuse against people with disabilities; comprehensive safety planning for crime victims with disabilities; and strategies for taking a proactive approach to providing accessible services to crime victims with disabilities.  Available in English and Spanish.

Braille Brochure on Family Protection Law in Jordan, for Women with Visual Impairments. Outlines the provisions of the Family Protection Law in Braille. The brochure was drafted by several legal experts and was presented as part of a workshop for visually impaired people. For more information, contact Karama. 

Violence against Women and Girls: Your Questions, Our Answers (Gender & Development Network, 2010). A brief yet effective synopsis of violence and its effects upon victims. English.