The What Design Can Do 2016 conference in São Paulo is coming up on 13-14 December. As the research partner of WDCD, STBY was asked to lead a breakout session exploring violence against women.
We have teamed up with social designers Paula Dib and Renata Costa in São Paulo to design the breakout session because STBY strongly believe in collaborating with local design researchers when working in a context that is not our own. It’s a nice opportunity to work with Paula and Renata again after collaborating with them in London back in 2007.
Designers are mostly known as problem solvers and idea generators. But some problems are so complex and ‘wicked’ that even the best solution-driven designers cannot quickly fire off a viable solution. Design research can help designers dig deeper. Such a complex problem as violence against women needs to be looked at it in a new way. With the help of experts, STBY aims to guide designers to look at violence against women from new angles and raise better questions that can lead to ideas with real impact.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women defines violence against women and girls as:
“A grave violation of human rights. Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and mental consequences for women and girls, including death. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. Violence not only has negative consequences for women but also their families, the community and the country at large. It has tremendous costs, from greater health care and legal expenses and losses in productivity, impacting national budgets and overall development. Decades of mobilizing by civil society and women’s movements have put ending gender-based violence high on national and international agendas. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.”
Reframing the main question
This workshop initially intended to explore ‘What design can do to address violence against women?’ as the main question. But we realised that this problem has violence against femininity at its root. Reframing the problem in this way shifts the perspective away from a problem that involves only woman, to a culturally rooted problem our society has with feminine behaviour, emotions, the role of each gender and power relations. Reframing it as ‘violence against femininity’ also makes it more inclusive towards men and the LGBTQ community.
During the breakout session at What Design Can Do – São Paulo, we will use storytelling as a way to gain new perspectives and design new questions. Instead of seeing violence as an intractable problem, or one caused by personal psychology and upbringing alone, we will recognise that it is also a cultural problem that can be deconstructed and addressed using design approaches. During the session, local and Dutch experts on the issue will share their knowledge, and unpack existing perceptions together with the designers attending the conference. Together, we can co-create new thought-provoking questions that can lead to new opportunities for design to make a positive difference.
The Dutch experts will be from the office of the Dutch Public Prosecutor (Openbaar Ministerie), who have asked WDCD to look into violence against women because they recognise the need for a new approach.
This session is a starting point of a complex and challenging design research journey – join us in São Paulo to create new perspectives on violence against femininity.
Image: ad series for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai