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The Soldiers for Sisters Movement

Changing the perception of men as the adversary by co-opting the good ones to rally and raise their voice for the cause. Using big brands and existing social/community groups to multiply the reach for the cause..

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
46 29

Written by

***UPDATED ON 29th Mar (with input from comments)***

ADDED: Image sketch of the campaign overview with the key stakeholders, their roles and incentives for participation.

An overview of the (RED) initiative for those who are unfamiliar  here
 
This idea is built around the opportunity area of Challenging Gender Norms and Expectations

Let's try to move away from the negative re-inforcing of gender stereotypes. There are countless men out there who care and are prepared to act in support for the women. Why don't we harness the power of this group to subdue the would-be-attackers and build a sense of safety and security for the women

Building on the Gillette Soldiers Wanted campaign: (Contribute your suggestions in the comments please)
  • One of the biggest strength of the big FMCG brands, is their product line. Would love to see if they can bring in advertising to their packaging (think of cigarette packs but with positive behavior reinforcing images this time instead of gory images) lines or to the store fronts they sell their products in. There were a number of ideas shared in the research phase which highlighted the importance of behavior change at a subconscious level. An example here
  • Raising awareness for the public through social media/TV Ads is a good first step. The real impact however depends on how far the campaign can extend to the grassroots because the likely attackers are more likely to be your under-educated, unemployed youth in sub-urban/rural areas than the metrosexual men in the cities. 
  • Brands can and should move away from trying to get just social media eyeballs, to actually scaling up their grassroots program involvement. Instead of social media targets, brands can set targets such as # of workshops run, # of men-at-risk reached, # of sustained engagements, etc 
  • Working with NGOs is a great step, but can we multiply the reach by roping in other associations/groups where men congregate - higher secondary schools, unis, sports grounds, fan clubs, etc 
The Business Case for brands to participate (Contribute your suggestions in the comments please)
  • Starting a movement for this cause equivalent to that which Bono championed for AIDS in Africa through Product (RED) can drive business growth through increased sales and stronger customer loyalty. 
  • An alternative is to consider the TOMS Shoes 1 for 1 model, in which every single product which is purchased, contributes to a women empowerement initiative of a partnering NGO.
  • By building a partnership with communities targeting the youth in remote areas, brands also build outreach channels and brand exposure in hard to reach areas, which provides opportunities for direct customer feedback, new product testing, building customer engagement and importantly driving sales.
Symbols of Support (Contribute your suggestions in comments please)
  • Can we bring in visual identifiers which can help the "soldiers" recognize each other? In India, we have the Rakshabandhan festival in which sisters tie of threads called Rakhis to the wrists of their brothers and male friends they consider brotherly. Can we make special Rakhis to identify the soldiers ?
  • Should we promote special badges/pins for these "soldiers"?
Soldiers for Self-Defense (Contribute your suggestions in comments please)
  • As part of the campaign, the male soldiers could train the women in the art of self-defence through training classes
  • As part of self-defense curriculum, the women could also have alarm triggers - a loud noise alarm, a quick dial number, a self-defense weapon, etc

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Community level social support groups of reliable, trusted men who will stand-up for and help women in need backed by big brands.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

1) The lack of a strong peer-pressure based deterrent for would-be-attackers and
2) Helping women build trust and a sense of safety
3) Getting the big brands to rally around the cause in a more sustainable manner.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

1) Women will start feeling a sense of safety and more importantly build trust with the communities they live in
2) The potential attackers will be subdued and might even be possibly reformed (if we can institutionalise such programs with the Soldiers for Sisters community)

Success can be monitored by the decrease in the number of attacks against women in those particular communities and the number of communities which adopt the movement.

Also,Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) could be run to measure the impact of each grassroots initiative.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

The social support groups and women empowerment groups already doing strong work in the community would be the obvious first choice.

It would be great if brands like Gillette, Unilever, etc could also get behind this campaign as they would bring a much stronger visibility and financial muscle behind the movement. But for a start, it can be championed by an NGO to demonstrate the potential

Where should this idea be implemented?

High risk, vulnerable areas with high incidences of women's violence

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Identify specific men community groups - fan clubs, sports groups, schools, polytechnics, local colleges. Build a fraternity of Soldiers for Sisters. Then, spread the message in the local community with the support of figures of authority.

46 comments

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Comment
Photo of Philip Sunil Urech
Team

Great idea and insightful discussion! Through and beyond the support through self defence sessions your contribution aims to leverage civil courage. Your model could be turned in a self-sustaining movement when at risk people having benefitted from support start to share back, not at last to extend concept to include female strengths.

Please have a look at the Crowdguard project - we aim to reinvent the geo-based smart phone alarm app for low- and no- feature phone users. We call it civil courage 2.0.

We would love to collaborate in sharing insights and technology on how to lower the bystander rate in providing help to at risk people.

http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/applause/crowdguard-app-reinvent-the-geo-based-smart-phone-alarm-app-for-low-and-no-feature-phones, I would love to hear your feedback.

Photo of Anjali Ramachandran
Team

This is another inspiring project along the same lines that we can draw inspiration from: the Good Men project. http://goodmenproject.com/

Photo of Janice Wong
Team

Love this Anjali. Thanks for sharing.

Photo of Congmin Liang
Team

It is really useful. Love your sharing.

Photo of Congmin Liang
Team

I really like this idea. I think it is important to let women feel safe where they live and also to build the trust with the community. It is very necessary for every women.

Photo of MrsAlways RigHt
Team

I love the idea too. I've had the opportunity to meet some pretty impressive men. Men who are kind and influential. These men should be celebrated

Equality for men is about taking advantage of our strengths and avoiding our weaknesses-WWW.playprelude.com is a tool that will help us get there.

Photo of shruti kapoor
Team

Love the idea & we at Sayfty want to do something similar. Engage men and boys to provide secure safe spaces for women. From what i have read so far the challenge lies in truly engaging people to stand up for strangers and help each other. You are probably familiar that in India people will often stand and watch crimes happen but won't step in to help. How does one motivate people to help and stand up for what is right. Program like MARD are more of a publicity stunt that real action. Here is a great program that works with men to create fight against violence :http://ecf.org.in/ . I'd love to me a part of your team to explore and brainstorm on this idea further.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Thanks for sharing on ECF shruti.. The MAN-UP program seems very impactful.. and great work with Sayfty..am sure you'll find many many ideas for additional products on this challenge here

Photo of Janice Wong
Team

The Guardian's Development Professional's Network is hosting a live Q&A: "Recruiting boys and men to fight gender inequality". How can the development sector engage both sides of the gender divide in the movement towards equality? Join them Thursday 17 April 1-3pm. I cannot join but maybe some others can.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/apr/14/boys-men-gender-equality?CMP=new_1194

Panel:
Rema Nanda, founder, Jagriti Youth, Bangalore, India, @JagritiYouth Rema is an entrepreneurial strategist. She founded Jagriti Youth for unmarried girls and boys in rural India to lead constructive change their communities.

Yemurai Nyoni, director, DotYouth, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, @YNyoni Yemurai is a youth advisor. He sits on the executive committee of the African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development and is a youth family planning ambassador with the UNFPA.

Jeremiah Onucheojo Ageny, social media analyst and volunteer, Association for Reproductive and Family Health, Abuja, Nigeria, @owjerry Jerry advises NGOs on social media engagement and is a comedian. He campaigns to end rape and violence in Nigeria.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

This is very interesting.. Thanks for sharing Janice.. Will share through my networks as well.. Cheers!

Photo of Ana Manrique
Team

Dear Sandiip and team:
I submitted an idea
http://openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/standing-by-you
and wanted to get some feedback from your team, because I think our ideas are aligned on many levels. Let me know what you think! I'm going to read through your submission and add any questions/comments in the coming days.
Thanks!

Photo of Amy Lanigan
Team

Hi Sandiip: Your insight about the Rakshabandhan festival and use of Rakhis is great. The power that piggybacking on existing cultural traditions holds when trying to change behaviors is exciting.

@ Janice Wong: The flashlight UN case study is fantastic. So simple, yet effective. Design at it's best.

Thanks for sharing - both sparked some fun ideas for me.

Cheers...

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Finding and enlisting the men who are caring and respectful to women is a great idea. While thinking about this challenge in the research phase I had an interesting and lively conversation with a taxi driver on a trip in NYC. I asked him where he was from, West Africa, and how women were treated in his community. He grew up in a rural area but lived in the city for his studies. He told me that in his village, and tribe, women are treated very well. There are specific punishments in his culture for men who mistreat women. He explained to me that this is because of the history of his tribe. Women hold a very important position in his culture. He also explained that there are other tribes in West Africa which do not treat women in this way.
  Are there cultural differences in how men are raised, regarding their respect for and accepted treatment of women within other countries? There have been several posts here about India and the large number of languages within that country. Do these different languages represent different cultures? Might there be inherent differences in the way women are treated in these cultures? And if so what are the opportunities to model the positive and respectful behaviors toward women within society as a whole? Where do the different cultures meet in their daily lives?
  It seems I have many questions. ???answers, or ideas to find them???

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Hi Bettina, yes - there are such differences in India too. Especially in the north-east in India in places like Meghalaya, it is a matriarchal society where women hold the power and you actually have the men demanding equal rights instead. It's definitely an interesting topic to think about how/why such societies arise and what we can learn from them for this cause

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Sandiip!
  Very interesting.
  Where are the points of contact between men from these two very different upbringings/communities? Is it university, a job in the city, a sports club, fan club? The opportunity I see here is the possibility to rub shoulders and befriend someone who grew up in a different culture and be exposed to new ways of thinking and being in the world. From my experience when young people leave home and meet others from different cultures, religions, or different levels of orthodoxy within their own religion it is a time of learning, questioning, reevaluating their ideas. How can we help get the conversation going between men who are probably already interacting? Is this an opportunity for your fraternity of soldiers?

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Great idea, but unfortunately I think the touch-points are very few and limited. Men from matriarchal societies are typically insulated from the outside world in much the same way as you would expect women to be oppressed in strongly male-dominated societies. Check out this article - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16592633

Am not aware of existing touch points out there - Maybe other OpenIDEO members could chime in?

Photo of Jamie Beck Alexander
Team

Bettina and Sandiip - wanted to connect you with this contribution in case you hadn't read it: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/their-problem-is-ours-too . It raises a similar issue you raised, Bettina, about how to facilitate more sharing and learning between people of very different backgrounds who could benefit from being exposed to one another. Could be useful to track and potentially link up with if this strand is followed - and I think it should be!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Jamie. Thank you for leading me to Melchior's idea. I was a bit surprised to hear from Sandiip that that men from different backgrounds do not cross paths much in India. Perhaps Melchior's blog will be an opportunity to start conversations between people who might never have the opportunity to interact. I also think it might potentially work as a bridge to bring others who are physically close but never interact,for a variety of reasons that emphasize their differences, together. Perhaps the "virtual" distance will be an ice breaker of sorts.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

I like the idea..I would add that to be really impactful, it has to be a platform which is also accessible on cheap phones - maybe even over SMS/MMS and not only on just smartphones

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Is Blogger Mobile an example of the technology you are referring to?
 I am going to refer Melchior to these comments so she can benefit from this discussion.
http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/their-problem-is-ours-too
 Thanks Sandiip!
 and thank you for adding me to your team!!

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Is there a blogger mobile version which works without data networks and just on cellular networks? Am referring to the need for more ideas along these lines - http://www.ted.com/talks/toby_shapshak_you_don_t_need_an_app_for_that

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

That's a very interesting conversation and I could see how Melchior's idea could be expanded by mobile access. He's currently working more on an offline / online hybrid version but further prototype could explore that direction.

Sandiip, great question and talk. I need to do some research as I remember seeing some discussions around these issues.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Thanks Sandiip for the Ted link. It is fascinating . Whoever is working on tech ideas for this challenge would benefit from looking at it.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Looking forward to seeing this idea grow, Sandip & Anjali! Here's some tips on evolving it further: http://ideo.pn/oi-evolve Could be great to start with doing some visualisations so that you move your fresh thinking beyond the Gillette graphic? Also worth considering as you develop your post – what would incentivise and motivate men and corporate supporters to get involved? We're excited to see what you come up with...

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Yes, will be working on this and updating soon.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Sandiip, great to see you building upon the Soldiers Wanted campaign http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/soldiers-wanted

I think it'd be great if you could try to identity how your idea is building upon this campaign (Gillette did partner with NGOs) and see how your idea is expanding it and making it more impactful. When you say that you want a brand like Gillette behind, what do you have in mind in terms of their role? How different would it be from their previous campaign?

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Hi Anne, Yes, I've got a couple of ideas to build on..Will add and update the post soon. Thanks for the suggestions

Photo of Brandie Maxwell
Team

Hi Sandiip….this is definitely a campaign and contribution that stood out to me and I'm glad to see you building on it. As you mentioned, you'd like brands like Gillette or Unilever to get behind, what's the "business" case for them to support something like this? While I think that many companies want to "do-good" there was always a question of what is the cost of getting behind something like this and what will the company get out of it (i.e. in this campaign, they increased sales and media presence) so it would be good to think through what argument could be presented to big companies such as Gillette to transition a one-time campaign to more long-term sustained support.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Thanks for raising this very important point Brandie..I strongly agree with you and it is exactly the kind of work I do on a daily basis as well. Have added in a couple of points on the Business ROI case. Let me know if you have more ideas/suggestions please. Thanks!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Great questions Brandie.
It's an argument similar to Prahalad:
http://www.ftpress.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1398628&seqNum=3
The question then is to define what are the target for this campaign and how they can represent potential consumers for Gillette or another brand.
Talking with an Indian friend the other day, he said that while the campaign was interesting, he was not sure it really had an impact on the low-income community and noted that Gillette products in India were not as common as in the US or in Europe.
Sandiip, any thoughts on that?

What other brands (which might already have more recognition than Gillette ) could be considered for this campaign?... or one could argue that this could be a way to create brand recognition (and creating a market) while also creating awareness about gender stereotypes and educating people through partnership with NGOs.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Hi Anne, think you are right - Gillette potentially doesn't have the same reach in India as other western markets. But, the idea here is to go beyond just a single brand. Think of all the FMCG products we use on a daily basis - paste, brush, soaps, deo, snacks, drinks, etc - each and every brand involved in pushing these FMCG products from Gillette to LifeBuoy to Breeze to Coke/Pepsi can play a role for this cause..

Have shared some biz ROI ideas above, please let me know if there are more..Cheers!

Photo of Elle Allison-Napolitano
Team

Hi Sandiip, here is another link you might find useful: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/every-woman-is-someone-s-sister-mother-or-daughter

Photo of Danielle White
Team

I like the idea of seeking out upstanding men in the high risk communities. Having them stand against the negative male influence while also making it about protecting the at risk women and building a sense of community around this partnership.

I know that the idea is to have the women trust the men in their community but that could leave them open to trusting the wrong people as well.

 I think there could be a place somewhere in your plan to maybe add self defense so that the women don't need to be solely dependent on their brothers in the community, this empowering them a bit more, or a kind of distress signal, maybe the form of a phone number they can have on speed dial, or even designated "safe places" like the safe zones for children.

I really would like to see something like this in my community and will keep an eye out for you as you build on this.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Interesting comments Danielle. I'm wondering if thinking of looking for positive deviants could not be a good idea:: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/positive-deviants

Sandiip, you might also want to check Tasha's idea: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/easily-identifiable-safe-spaces
I suggested in one of my comments of maybe including men... but I agree with Danielle, that women should be included (and empowered) too. Your two ideas seem very complementary.

Photo of Danielle White
Team

Thank you Anne-Laure, I will look more into your suggestions.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Thanks for the great suggestions Anne and Danielle. Have updated the post with your inputs. Look forward to hearing more ideas

Photo of Janice Wong
Team

Quite a while back, I read an article regarding safety of women in refugee/displaced persons camps in Ethiopia. The women and girls needed to leave the safety of the camp to collect firewood and in the course of such, would be frequently assaulted, abused and/or raped. However without firewood they could not cook and so it became a "necessary evil".

The UN would provide flashlights to the women (only) to help them remain safe when they needed to leave the camp after sunset or when they needed to use public facilities at night. The flashlights became highly desired commodities and would be stolen from the women by men.

As a consequence, the UN worked with a company to produce a bright pink flashlight. This was not to reinforce gender stereotypes but to make it highly identifiable and a deterrent for theft. reports of theft dramatically dropped as men were embarrassed to be seen with a bright pink flashlight but more importantly, if a man was carrying one it revealed him to be a thief and action could be taken.

In applying some of the lessons here, how can we create a public campaign that not only encourages strong and active participation but also almost "shames" those who are publicly seen as not participating? How do we start a movement that is so "cool" and forward-thinking that you do not want to be seen as not supporting it?

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Janice - again a great idea! If you can share the Ethiopia article, I will add it to the main post above.

Would the Symbols of Support address this valid point which you have raised? Are there other "cool" visual identifiers we can bring in?

Photo of Ashwin Gopi
Team

I think part of the campaign could also address the "bystander effect" where people bear witness to a crime happening but don't do anything to stop it because they either don't want to get involved, they believe someone else will help them, or in some cases, and justifiably so, afraid of law enforcement and negative backlash. One example would be people not helping victims because they're afraid that they'll get their fingerprints on the scene, might get questioned b y the police, or even face litigation. So how do we instill a strong sense of right and wrong, and empower men and women to take action when it is appropriate? How do we get institutional powers such as the police to portray that good deeds are not punished? Will removing the threat of punishment encourage good Samaritans?

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Hi Ashwin, the bystander effect you've brought up is a very valid point. Policy and rules are definitely one way to address this issue. But, in a country like India, progress does not happen because of policy decisions, more often than not, progress happens in spite of policy.. Do you have suggestions on addressing the bystander effect without directly touching on policy?

Photo of Janice Wong
Team

I like the initiative "Movember" where men around the world grew moustaches in November to raise awareness of men's health issues. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way men could openly display their support of women's and girls' safety so that not only were they publicly supporting the issue but women would immediately be able to see whom they might trust. The challenge will be in ensuring authenticity and to not have the idea hijacked by those with less virtuous intentions.

http://www.movember.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movember

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Great idea! Speaking in an Indian context, moustaches are pretty common. So, it would be hard showcase support for the cause through mooches. But, in India, we do have the Rakshabandhan festival, where sisters tie a "rakhi" - a colored string on the wrists of brothers. Maybe we could design specific bands/strings for the men supporters which shows their alignment with the cause. The Rakshabandhan festival would also be a great launch date for the campaign

Photo of Janice Wong
Team

Yes, I was not thinking of moustaches in particular but as you say, something highly visible and identifiable to the cause.

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Love the idea..Have updated the post with your suggestion

Photo of Jamie Beck Alexander
Team

Really inspiring idea, Sandiip. I especially love the idea of using already-existing networks to build on - and linking them with somewhat non-traditional allies like fan clubs and sports groups. I'm exited to see how this will physically play out and how these support groups will function and build trust and credibility in their communities. Look forward to more discussion!

Photo of Sandiip Saravanan
Team

Thanks Jamie, look forward to having your ideas/suggestions to shape this idea better