We Can Campaign
Location: Sri Lanka. Credit: Oxfam


Raising awareness about gender violence in South Asia


We Can Campaign

In 2004, Oxfam launched a six-year, six-country campaign whose aim was to make violence against women a visible issue and challenge the deeply-ingrained social attitudes that support and endorse discrimination and violence against women. It was the We Can campaign and it was initially launched in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and then extended to Indonesia, the Netherlands and British Columbia in Canada.

We Can worked to end all forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence and abuse that women and girls suffer. They were aware that everything from verbal abuse to rape, from unequal wages to forced marriages stem from the same problem. The campaign worked on raising awareness about all these issues and ending all forms of violence and discrimination, no matter how small they may seem.

The idea was simple but ambitious—to mobilise Change Agents who would spread the message and information about gender equality to ten people each. Oxfam worked with 3,000 local partners which were organised into local and national alliances. By 2010, the alliances registered over three million Change Makers.


The Circle donated £20,000 to the We Can campaign in Nepal, where the message reached over 750,000 people and 10,000 people took part in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.


The We Can message reached one million people in Bangladesh. Several district alliances were set up to support violence survivors and included 300 local administrative bodies, 132 schools and 155 local governments. The Circle donated £36,688 to this branch of the campaign.


In India, the alliance members engaged with 5,000 government bodies in ten states to advocate gender equality. Change Maker kits, which included posters, audiovisual aids, booklets and other materials, were distributed to 2,500 educational institutions and twelve radio programmes intended to raise awareness about gender violence were produced and broadcast monthly in thirteen states across the country. The Circle donated £32,528 towards these projects.


In only one year of the project, 7,500 events were held and 124,310 new Change Makers were recruited across 36 districts. The Change Makers were trained and offered stronger media and legal support in order to make them more effective in tackling gender violence. The alliances also trained 400 teachers, who in turn spread the word to 31,000 children across 500 schools. This supporting network may have helped to increase women’s confidence to report cases of abuse, as the number of reports doubled in 26 districts.