About the project

Information design, geographical mapping, 'culture-jamming' and illustration and animations are all powerful vehicles for rights advocates to package and communicate their information. Visualising Women's Rights in the Arab World, is a project led by Tactical Tech to strengthen the use of such visual techniques amongst women's rights activists and build a network of women with these skills in the region.

This project focuses on women's rights advocates working on issues of violence against women, the impact and role of women in political and violent conflict and women's participation and leadership in public life. More specific regional topics will include; honour crimes, rights of the girl child, migrant workers, citizenship and family law.

The project has three components:

  • A blog: researching and publishing inspiring and relevant visualisation examples (such as info-graphics, animations, comics, mapping projects etc) about women's and social rights in the Arab world (find the blog on the homepage)
  • A workshop on visual advocacy, with selected participants working on women's rights issues in the Arab world, in Jordan in December 2010 (find out how to apply)
  • A mentorship program: supporting the production and implementation of ten visual campaigns that emerge from the workshop.

This project is funded by the Open Society Institute's (OSI) International Women's Program and local logistical support for the workshop is provided by AED Jordan.

What do we mean by visualising rights?

NGOs and rights advocates too often find that the information they want to communicate is buried in long reports full of professional jargon and statistics, overlooked in an endless stream of media releases or over-simplified in advertising-style campaigns. The challenge they face is how to give the right people the right information in the best possible way.

Whether talking to the public, staff, donors or government officials, visual techniques such as mapping, information design, illustration and animation are powerful ways to communicate campaign messages and support advocacy.

In short visual techniques for advocacy can:

  • engage new or difficult to reach audiences, 
  • help advocates find a way through the overwhelming amount of information overload
  • explain an issue in a different or compelling way, giving the audience a new perspective
  • simplify and make a message more powerful
  • show patterns or relationships otherwise unnoticed

Read more about visualising information for advocacy, with good examples, here.

Why Visualising Women's Rights?

We believe that visual forms of advocacy can have a significant role to play in furthering women's rights.

Around the world, women's movements are demanding the right to be recognised as equal citizens with unique needs and experiences. The central themes of these movements are to challenge the silence around, and authority of, social, cultural, legal and political norms and values that keep women in a state of inequality. For example, domestic violence occurs because a man's right to control his partner and family are virtually sanctioned by the social construction of family and marriage. Honour killings are conducted because there is no challenge to social norms that equate an arbitrary notion of collective honour with a woman's character. 'Culture' is often cited as a reason for women's second place in society. However, a closer look reveals that even 'culture' is appropriated and reformulated by those in power, to serve their own ends. Silence, compounded by misinformation, maintains the status quo.

We believe that visual forms of advocacy may be one of the ways to challenge these given ideas.

The example of Blank Noise
It is commonly believed that 'only women who don't cover their heads' or 'only women who go out late at night' are harassed on the streets; Blank Noise in India decided to challenge this notion, using hard evidence to show that any woman, irrespective of what she wears and when she goes out, can be a victim of harassment. Using mobile phones and a blog, Blank Noise urged women who faced street harassment to take photographs of their harassers and post them online. Women could also list or send in photographs of what they were wearing at the time. Going over the data collected by Blank Noise, it appears that there is no standard stereotype of either a harasser or a victim, how they're dressed, or what time harassment occurs.

The collection of data like Blank Noise's can become the basis for evidence-based advocacy. And information – be it statistics, personal stories, video clips, text messages, photographs – becomes something to leverage public opinion, social attitudes, and even law and policy.

Read/download the press release here (28 September 2010)