White Ribbon: Taking Action Around the World to End Violence Against Women – Part 4, Asia, Middle East & Caucusas

November 30, 2013 Michael Kaufman


Nepalese man dons a white ribbon

The fourth of a week-long series with White Ribbon stories & links from around the world. Scroll down or click for: 1: Australia, New Zealand and the south Pacific , Part 2: The Americas. or Part 3: Europe.

And check out The Guardian article by Gary Barker and me, “We Must Enlist Men and Boys in the Fight to End Violence Against Women

Because White Ribbon is a decentralized network, it’s impossible to track down most WR activities in the world. What is below is only a small sample. I hope you’ll add your own stories by sending me an email or adding links in the comments section.

Bangladesh: Organizations affiliated with the MenEngage Alliance have done White Ribbon work over the years in Bangladesh.

Burma: In Rangoon, women’s groups called for men and women to participate in a “white campaign”, wearing white shirts and ribbons during the 16 Days of Activism from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, until 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

White Ribbon Day for Women & Men in Burma

Cambodia: The 16-Day White Ribbon Campaign has been organized for many years by the Cambodia Men’s Network (CMN) and Gender and Development for Cambodia, and now includes a number of other organizations. Events are held in Phnom Penh and throughout the country and include public forums and rallies, door-to-door campaigns, White Ribbon marches, TV talk shows, radio call-in shows, and a mobile concert along the national road #5.

In the countryside with White Ribbon in Cambodia

China: The White Ribbon Network of Volunteers organizes counseling services through the trail-breaking national White Ribbon hotline, as well as legal services and other advocacy work for both men and women.  In November, 200 volunteers from the network met in Beijing for a public forum and a training workshop, attended by representatives from various global organizations. … The All China Women’s Federation wrote on its website: “The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women has also become known around the world as White Ribbon Day. To mark the event, men and boys are urged to wear white ribbons as a visible pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.”

White Ribbon China helpline

Japan: No news for the past few years.

India: Various organizations, including Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women, have used the White Ribbon symbol in some of their work. MASVAW for example, works in schools and universities across Utrar Pradesh to educate and campaign for gender equality and against men’s violence, and also carries out activities in communities and workplaces (including in the many brickworks which are treacherous places for women to work.)

Korea: An ongoing website and  Facebook page, but I don’t have any recent news.

Malaysia: In December, 3000 people are taking part in the All Women’s Action Society’s White Ribbon Run & Walk as just one aspect of their public outreach. A couple of years ago, Malaysian White Ribbon activists released this video encouraging men to speak out.

Mongolia: No recent news, but here is a terrific short video they put out a couple of years ago.

Nepal. Save the Children and the National Women’s Commission are two of the sponsors of White Ribbon in Nepal and it’s become a widely-used symbol: There’s a pubic campaign, education efforts, and meetings with high-profile officials.

Nepalese man dons a white ribbon

Pakistan has had various dynamic White Ribbon Campaigns over the years.  Currently White Ribbon Pakistan has a big range of activities. It has an ongoing youth leadership program. It is working with religious leaders, including some who are identified as quite conservative, who are now speaking out against violence against women.  Because of appalling coverage of violence against women in the media, it has conducted trainings for journalists in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar and now gives out annual White Ribbon Media Awards to celebrate work in media that presents fairer gender representations and perspectives.

Pakistan White Ribbon Wrestling Match - "Strong Men Are Gentle Men"


Pakistan White Ribbon - Youth Leadership Program

Papua New Guinea saw various organizations including the Coalition for Change (which circulated a petition signed by thousands of women and men demanding serious government action on violence against women) to the Chamber of Mines. Here are links to TV coverage, one a meeting, the other a march by airline employes.

Singapore: AWARE is the main sponsor of White Ribbon in Singapore. They’ve held public events and do work in schools. Like many campaigns  they focus on positive messages.

Sri Lanka: Oxfam and the Legal Aid Commission are two of the organizations that have encouraged the pubic to “wear a white ribbon” during the 16 Days of Activism (Nov. 25-Dec. 10). Oxfam’s district offices conducted activities in workplaces, met with government officials, organized men’s and boys groups, organized performances of street theatre. In Colombo, white ribbons are being distributed free to the public with information on the issue at Cargills outlets and some Laufgs supermarkets.

Taiwan:charity run took place in Taipei to raise awareness and funds for women’s services.

Vietnam: I haven’t received any recent reports

Middle East, Caucasus & Russia

Armenia. The campaign has included public theater performances, forums, and tree planting ceremonies and is tied in with 16 Days of Activism.

Azerbaijan. The campaign has been going on for six years. In Baquio and Sitel, ribbons were given out and thousands of men and women signed a pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. An organization, Save Our Women has payed a key role with support from the local Zonta Club, and various organizations.

Georgia. The ribbon has been worn by government officials, students, and soldiers and staff in the European Union Monitoring Mission.

Iraq: Last year, Women for Peace held an event (supported by Oxfam) that focused on ending early marriage. They also did many interviews on radio and TV, met with members of parliament, academics, religious leaders, tribal sheikhs, and writers; they carried out public activities both in Baghdad and outlying areas.

Israel: I heard a report about White Ribbon starting up in a college, but no details. There was a campaign inspired by WR a number of years ago, but seems it didn’t continue.

Jordan: No updates for the past few years, but here’s a link from a five years ago.

Kurdistan: White Ribbon holds public events, sets up booths in shopping areas to speak to people, maintains a facebook page, and works with human rights organizations.

Pinning on a white ribbon in Kurdistan

Kurdistan. Solider wearing a White Ribbon

And here is video from Kurdistan:

Lebanon: Our colleagues at Abaad have been running an annual white ribbon campaign and other activities through the year –using football as a setting to reach boys and young men.

And a video from Lebanon here and a powerful TV ad (and maybe below)

Russia: There’s been a campaign in Siberia that has done workshops and public gatherings.

Braving the cold in Siberia to get the message out.

Saudi Arabia: A courageous man and woman, an economist named Abdullah Alami and journalist Samar Fatany (the Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting company), have joined forces to create a White Ribbon Campaign. See Abdullah’s November 24 blog here and an article from the Saudi Gazette.   They’ve stated that “our religion calls for humanity, love, equality, justice and peace, and does not accept the infringement of women in any form.” But it didn’t take long for an influential sheikh to attack them in a twenty-four minute-long video where he criticizes them and White Ribbon because “they want to extract women from their subordination.” Abdullah Alami on twitter. I’m not able to read it myself, but if you read Arabic, here is a four part series by Islamic scholar Shualia Zain Al Abideen on why the UN’s campaign to end violence against women is not anti-Islamic.

Turkey has seen ongoing, but scattered, use of the white ribbon in different parts of the country, including events in universities, involvement by police and local governments, including involving football players in commercials and during halftime events.


Prepared by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite & Michael Kaufman

White Ribbon’s messages:

  • Although most men don’t use violence in our relationships, all men have a responsibility to helping make it end. Why? Because our silence becomes a form of tacit consent. White Ribbon works to end men’s silence.
  • We know that the violence stems from social inequality between women and men. The violence won’t end until women enjoy full equality in the law, within our religions, in our workplaces, and in our families.
  • We also know that men’s violence stems from the ways we raise boys to be men and the impossible expectations of manhood. If we want to raise boys to be good men who won’t ever use violence, then a model of caring, non-violent masculinity must start in the home. We must stop raising our sons to fear showing feelings, to fear vulnerability, to feel they must always be in control.
  • We recognize the need to go beyond awareness-raising campaigns. We push for better laws, police training, new policies in workplaces, courses for new parents, and school-based programs.

White Ribbon works like this:

  • It is a decentralized campaign. We believe that people know best in their own countries and communities how to reach the men and boys around them.
  • It’s international. Over the years, it’s spread to 70 or 80 countries.
  • In some countries there is an actual WR organization. In most, it’s a campaign run by other organizations or a government office or simply a group of volunteers in a school, workplace, community, or place of worship.
  • It works in partnership with women’s organizations and urges men to listen to women’s voices and concerns.
  • It focuses on positive messages. This is not about collective guilt. This is about working for healthy and loving relationships, and positive models of parenting.