Media Trust’s Women’s Voices event helped our charity’s petition succeed

Posted 3 June 2021

Women’s Aid NI, a leading voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland providing support services for women, children and young people who have experienced domestic violence and abuse, attended Media Trust’s flagship volunteering event, Women’s Voices, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

We applied to Women’s Voices because we saw it as an excellent opportunity to receive free, expert advice from media professionals and improve on areas we needed support with, such as interview techniques, how to refine our messaging and engage effectively with the media.

Without a dedicated communications team, any communication strategies are implemented by our existing small team and within a small, limited budget. By participating in this Media Trust event, we hoped to use this brilliant opportunity to gain useful knowledge on media engagement and learn new methods to effectively communicate with the public and other relevant stakeholders.

The key mission of Women’s Aid is to challenge attitudes and beliefs, which perpetuate domestic violence. To effectively carry out our mission we need to be adept at communicating with the public, media and relevant stakeholders and inspire them to support our work. Opportunities like Women’s Voices are incredibly valuable to any organisation seeking to learn new techniques from expert volunteers and ask advice.

How volunteer support helped frame our messaging

We planned to launch a petition the day after International Women’s Day calling on the Northern Ireland Executive (our government) to introduce a ‘violence against women & girls’ strategy. Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK that doesn’t have such a strategy, and we felt women & girls in Northern Ireland were being let down simply because of their postcode.

Going into the session with our volunteers, we had a rough plan of what we wanted to achieve in terms of framing the messaging and promotion of the petition. The volunteers really helped us get to hone the wording in order to encourage the public to sign our petition, and effectively highlight this gap in government policy.

One thing that really stuck in my mind was from our conversation with volunteer Francesca Kasteliz. She really helped pin down the sense of unfairness that many people in Northern Ireland feel when they realise that we don’t have vital things such as a ‘violence against women & girls’ strategy and how that really resonates with people here, so we ensured we channelled this in our social media posts, for example.

women's aid logo Karen Devlin, Administrator, Women's Aid NI

After taking in the invaluable advice from our volunteers regarding promotion, maximising social media support, wording and effectively engaging with the media, we went ahead in planning our content. This included a social media strategy, which ensured that our petition reached as many people as possible. We also swapped contact details with our volunteers and they very kindly sent on helpful guides and support information that was mentioned during the session. We really appreciated them taking the time to work with us and sharing their expertise.

Changemaking with 20,000 signatures

Following the petition’s launch, we had 10,000 signatures in less than a week and within two weeks, the Northern Irish media ran with the story and the petition was mentioned on TV, print media and radio.

women's aid logo Karen Devlin, Administrator, Women's Aid NI

The petition continued to grow and by 23 March, the Northern Ireland Assembly was debating on a motion on our parliament’s floor calling on the Executive to introduce a ‘violence against women & girls’ strategy. It was unanimously backed.

Just three days later, the petition had 20,000 signatures and the Northern Ireland Executive committed to developing a strategy in the region. As of May 2021, it’s still in the early stages and Women’s Aid look forward to working with the Northern Ireland Executive to develop this core strategy.

Honestly, we cannot thank Women’s Voices and the volunteers enough for taking the time to work with us and for giving us such amazing advice. We would totally recommend this event to any women and girls’ charity who are looking for expert advice on improving any aspect of their communications. We would particularly recommend it to small charities who don’t have a communications department. Our session with the Media Trust volunteers was truly invaluable!


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