#MeToo Goes Global: Advancing Women’s Rights as Human Rights

Tuesday, June 22
10:00AM-11:15AM EDT

GIWPS convened leading activists from Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, and the United States on the margins of the U.N. Human Rights Council for a discussion on the global impact of the #MeToo movement and the broad cultural reckoning it has sparked on gender equality. Panelists included: Ms. Jennifer Klein, Co-Chair and Executive Director of the White House Gender Policy Council; Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Fakhrriyyah Hashim, Leader of Nigeria’s #ArewaMeToo movement and Peace, Security and Development Fellow at the African Leadership Centre; Ms. Nighat Dad, Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, and Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan; and Dr. Manoela Miklos, Feminist Activist, Social Scientist, and Curator of #AgoraÉQueSãoElas (#NowIt’sThem) Platform in Brazil. 

#MeToo gained worldwide attention in 2017 as a U.S. social movement fighting to end sexual harassment. It has since evolved to a global phenomenon to address gender inequality in all its forms, and has taken on increasing urgency amidst COVID-19. Women around the world are mobilizing collective power to stand up and claim their rights.

Panelists shared key recommendations from their countries and contexts, as modeled by #MeToo, #AgoraÉQueSãoElas, and #ArewaMeToo, on best practices that can be scaled to better advocate for women’s rights and safety worldwide.

“This transformative moment has disrupted the silence and stigma. It’s showcased the power and potential of organizing in the 21st century, lifting voices, and creating transnational connections.” – Jennifer Klein, Co-Chair of the White House Gender Policy Council

Understanding Local Context

  • Contextualize the global #MeToo movement to understand the distinct realities of women across the world, while challenging the notion that #MeToo is a Western agenda. Freedom from violence and harassment must be considered a universal right and inherent to a woman’s dignity. At the same time, solutions need to be tailored to local contexts and draw from what has worked to scale solutions and advance progress across cultures.
  • Adopt an intersectional approach to issues of gender, race, and other overlapping forms of discrimination, to enable women to access the full range of resources and work opportunities.

Engaging allies in advocacy

  • Partner with a broad coalition of actors, including civil society, international organizations, feminist movements, and other human rights groups, to coordinate messaging and raise awareness of online and offline harassment. This includes bringing men and boys into conversations about sexual harassment. 
  • Connect local voices with policymakers to translate women’s movements to concrete policy change. Linking mass voices coming from the communities with governments and national entities is necessary for broad change.
  • Channel the advocacy, strategic litigation, and locally-based tactics of grassroots organizers and youth-led movements. Listen to civil society organizations who are piloting innovative ideas and engage in dialogue with young women leaders.

Removing barriers to progress

  • Remove barriers for reporting violence against women and online harassment. This includes dismantling the mechanisms that exist to protect perpetrators of harassment, such as criminal defamation laws, that are being weaponized by perpetrators and used to prevent women from speaking out. 
  • Challenge the stigma around the “culture of silence,” particularly in the Global South, and the societal norms, attitudes, biases, and mindsets that underlie the culture of harassment and violence against women.
  • Counter the backlash women face in online spaces through resources, education, and trainings, such as the Digital Rights Foundation’s cyber harassment hotline in Pakistan. 

Raising awareness and reframing the narrative

  • Promote conversations and amplify messaging around the #MeToo movement in all online and offline spaces, including through grassroots trainings on consent, legal protections, online safety, and digital rights.
  • Listen to survivors who share their experience of sexual harassment publicly.
  • Reframe language that is detrimental to victims and survivors, such as mislabeling sexual violence as “sins” rather than “crimes,” and challenge the culture of victim blaming.
  • Create a set of media guidelines or toolkits for how journalists, news outlets, and popular culture speaks about sexual harassment and violence against women. 

Providing access to justice and resources

  • Ensure access to justice and formal legal structures, especially in low-income or rural communities, as in Nigeria, where indigenous and traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution are insufficient for providing justice to victims of violence.
  • Provide ongoing support, including mental health care and legal aid, to victims of gender-based violence and women who experience harassment and trauma. 

Leveraging donors and financing 

  • Leverage international financing mechanisms and donors to ensure resources allocated to national governments are directed to issues like gender-based violence prevention and focused on the most vulnerable women – including those in refugee and IDP camps.

Ensuring implementation and accountability

  • Demand accountability to ensure gender policies are embedded within national and international programs that address violence against women. Prioritizing implementation of gender-sensitive policies is critical to safeguarding the rights of women at large.
  • Ensure law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are properly interpreting laws, and that the laws on the books are implemented in practice.
  • Use data to frame the debate and better understand the complex dynamics of gender-based violence to shift how states provide care for women.

Hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Permanent Mission of the United States in Geneva, in cooperation with the Geneva Group of Friends to Eliminate Sexual Harassment (Argentina, Canada, Estonia, France, Greece, Kenya, the Netherlands, Israel, and the Republic of Korea), the European Union, and the United Kingdom.