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Campaign Sparks Global Dialogue on Gender Equality

Amy Adkins Harris's picture

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It’s a simple phrase with a powerful message: Think Equal.

What began as a global awareness campaign to promote the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development has grown into a social media movement. The World Bank issued a call to action on behalf of women and girls through the use of the Twitter hashtag #thinkEQUAL that quickly went viral.

Launched in the spring of 2011, the Bank’s Think Equal campaign aims to raise awareness of gender equality as a development priority. According to the 2012 WDR, countries that work to improve conditions for women and girls have better development outcomes. By highlighting stories of women and girls around the world who are living with and overcoming gender challenges, the Bank hopes to increase demand for gender policy and data.

“The key idea behind the campaign is action, not just thought,” said Caroline Anstey, World Bank managing director. “Think Equal is just the beginning; the next step is to act equal across the development spectrum: international institutions, governments, the private sector, civil society.”

#thinkEQUAL was quickly embraced by social media audiences and has been seen on Twitter 43.9 million times to date -- in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. #thinkEQUAL has been mentioned nearly 16,000 times and is one of the most widely used gender hashtags. People around the world used the hashtag when posting about the campaign and when answering the question, “What does equal mean to you?”

On Facebook, both “friends” and critics of the World Bank are sharing the Think Equal message with their networks by adding the hashtag to their posts.

Jeni Klugman, who joined as the new director of the Bank’s gender group just when the campaign was being launched, noted that “This type of initiative is so important to enable the World Bank Group to reach out beyond traditional audiences, and has given us a great platform to move ahead with the challenge of getting results on the ground.”

Anchoring the project is a series of videos produced by the World Bank’s Broadcast and Multimedia team. In it, women from every region share their unique struggles and triumphs in the face of gender inequality. Posted on the Bank’s YouTube channel as well as on Facebook and Twitter, the videos have been viewed and shared more than 104,000 times in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

Capturing the Online Audience

The global conversation on “getting to equal” heightened during the Open Forum on Gender, held during last year’s Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Open Forum, featuring a 24-hour global chat and live webcast, allowed participants to join gender equality activists, experts and entrepreneurs in debating gender solutions and sharing their own ideas. More than 30,000 people from 185 countries participated in the online event, submitting nearly 300 ideas to combat gender inequality. The debate continues to thrive on social media channels, prompting a 43% increase in overall traffic to the Bank’s Gender website compared to the previous year.

The Think Equal campaign is bolstered by other interactive features, including photo galleries, blog posts and the Think Equal poll, published in languages. More than 8,600 votes from all regions captured key gender perceptions of men and women via the online hub, thinkequal.worldbank.org.

Two new apps, the WDR 2012 app for iPad and the “Women of the World” app for iPhone and iPad, put gender-focused content in the hands of mobile users. The WDR 2012 app allows users to access the Bank’s flagship report and gender policy recommendations, while “Women of the World,” a joint project with Fotopedia, uses eye-catching photos to highlight women’s issues. Both apps feature the #thinkEQUAL hashtag. Just 13 days after its launch, the “Women of the World” app was downloaded more than 268,000 times. Using data and statistics from the 2012 WDR, Bank-commissioned infographics posted on Facebook also help raise awareness and shed new light on the issue of gender equality.

Continuing the Conversation

Offline efforts have also helped to drive social media traffic. Compelling images displayed around World Bank headquarters, including live coverage of the Open Forum on an outdoor Jumbotron, helped capture the local audience along with Think Equal posters in bus shelters around Washington. In New York City, Think Equal videos were played in New York City cabs.

Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation tweeted about the display:

The World Bank partnered with the Nike Foundation to host an outdoor rally on gender equality during the Annual Meetings. Hundreds of Bank staff donned Think Equal T-shirts featuring the #ThinkEQUAL hashtag.

While the Campaign for Gender Equality lives on via social media, the World Bank continues to help forward the gender agenda. As we prepare to commemorate International Women’s Day (March 8), let us remember that there’s still work to be done.

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