Campaign on the rights of woman survivors of violence and their children to access support and protection 

WAVE CoCo Meeting 2016

What is the Step Up! Campaign?

Step Up! Is a European-wide campaign launched on 25 May 2016 promoting the rights of women survivors of violence and their children to access support and protection. Launched nationally in WAVE Member countries, and internationally from the WAVE office, this campaign aims to step up efforts in Europe to stop violence against women, raise awareness of the problem, and protect survivors through activities which target different stakeholders and decision-makers. In order to be effective and to achieve concrete results and improvements, WAVE will concentrate on the problem of domestic violence and sexual violence against women and their children. Gender-based violence is an epidemic which requires governmental and societal action, and needs to be brought onto the agenda of governments across Europe.

For more information on the campaign, check out the Step Up! Campaign Blueprint.

Check out the WAVE Step Up! Campaign profile on Facebook, and show your support!

Why Is #StepUpWAVE Important?

Over the last few decades in Europe, progress has been made in many countries in addressing the widespread problem of violence against women. Despite all efforts, the scale of gender-based violence remains shockingly high, along with barriers to accessing support and the lack of sustainable funding which reduces the number of services available for women to seek help as well as the quality of services. As the 2014 FRA prevalence study on violence against women demonstrates: 1 in 3 women has experienced some form of physical and/or sexual assault since the age of 15; pregnant women are especially vulnerable to violence – 42% experienced violence from their previous partner; and after breaking up with a partner, 1 in 6 women reportedly continued to be victimized by their former partner. Furthermore, the rate of femicide and children suffering from domestic violence is not decreasing, while experiences of violence continue to be under-reported. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), which aims to guarantee women a life free from violence, is only signed in 20 European countries, and while ratified in 22 countries, remains to be effectively implemented.

Read the Istanbul Convention in its entirety >>


We need to step up our efforts in Europe to stop violence against women and to support and protect survivors. Provision, quality, and funding of specialized support services need to be improved and adequate financial support to be provided for non-governmental organizations supporting victims. Furthermore, the aims of the campaign are to challenge attitudes and beliefs which facilitate or condone violence and discriminate against women and girls. To achieve these goals, the WAVE Step Up! campaign will call on key decision-makers to:

  • Actively support prevention and protection for victims of violence against women and girls
  • Commit to improving access to protection and specialised support services for all women and children, especially groups facing multiple discrimination
  • Increase in the number of specialist women’s support services in Europe
  • Improve the quality of services, including a gender-sensitive and women’s rights-based approach
  • Improve the access of women and children who face multiple disadvantages and discrimination, including those with disabilities and migrant and asylum-seeking women, especially undocumented migrant women

Objectives are to also address stakeholders on the level of international organizations, including the Council of Europe and European Union, through lobbying in order to:

  • Increase the ratification and effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention
  • Implement provisions of the Victims Directive, especially in the area of providing specialist support services for women victims of violence

Key Principles

  • To have the voice of women survivors of violence at the centre of the campaign, and involve their perspective in the planning and carrying out of the campaign activities
  • To promote and support independent women’s organizations as providers of specialist services – good quality support requires independent, gender-sensitive services that put woman’s and children’s humans’ rights also at the centre
  • To always be in line with priorities and standards set by the Istanbul Convention

Campaign Activities

Activities at the national level

  1. Set up a WAVE campaign group of national campaigners

    The first step of the WAVE campaign is to set up a WAVE campaign group with members from at least 20 of the 46 countries in which WAVE has members. The WAVE campaign group will, together with the WAVE office, carry out the activities.

  2. More than a roof over one’s head – setting standards for quality support

    A set of quality standards will be developed for specialist women’s support services and promoted across Europe, targeting policy makers and service providers. They will contain good practice examples and recommendations for concrete steps to improve services. Webinars will also be held for different target groups, facilitating training and exchange on quality standards, structures and the funding of specialist women’s support services.

  3. Government’s Commit – to stepping up support and protection for survivors

    Governments will be invited to support the campaign and to commit to concrete steps to improve the situation of specialist women’s support services. Governments joining the activity will be presented on the WAVE campaign website as well as at campaign events, serving as good practice examples, encouraging and motivating other governments to step up their efforts. Activities will also serve the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, EU Victims Directive, and other international documents.

  4. Increase access to protection and support

    The campaign will put a spotlight on improving access to services for groups facing multiple discrimination, with a special focus on women and children with disabilities and undocumented migrant women victims of violence and their children. This activity will identify barriers in countries and step up efforts to remove them.

  5. Video competition and award – young people advocating the rights of survivors

    An award will be created to encourage young women and men to join the campaign. Youth organizations and universities will be invited to join the competition and create a video, with the aim of raising awareness of violence against women and encouraging survivors to seek support. A jury of feminist media experts will be identified to select and award winners.

Activities at the European level

  1. Lobby for signing, ratifying and implementing the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention

    Many European countries have not yet signed, ratified or effectively implemented the Istanbul Convention. Accordingly, a main campaign goal is to lobby these countries and the European Union to take the necessary steps for the Istanbul Convention to become the powerful tool for women’s rights that it is supposed to be.

  2. Lobby the European Union to step up efforts to combat all forms of violence against women and girls

    EU institutions and member states need to take concrete steps for establishing a comprehensive strategy and action plan to address all forms of violence, especially the most common forms of violence against women in Europe, which are rape and sexual violence and intimate partner violence. The activity will support the initiatives of the European Parliament and include lobbying the European Commission to establish a Year for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2017.

  3. Lobby the European Union and member states for a European Women’s Helpline

    A European women’s helpline number, referring victims to the specialist women’s helplines in the country where they live is of particular importance for women who experience violence when moving to or visiting other countries. Correspondingly, with this activity the campaign will lobby for the implementation of a free-of-charge, 24/7 European women’s helpline number.

The Role of Specialist Women’s Support Services

Specialist women’s support services, especially those run by the non-governmental organizations, have and continue to serve numerous roles in society and have historically been places where women victims of violence immediately turn to for empowerment and support. As a result, such services are life-saving. Specialist services for women survivors of violence are those that are specialized to address violence against women.

Istanbul Convention recognizes the importance of specialist services in articles 22-25. The Istanbul Convention obligates states to provide specialist services that include shelters, telephone helplines and support for victims of sexual violence. The term ‘specialized’ should be seen as denoting a service not available to the general public, but instead directed at women survivors of violence. The Explanatory Report to the Istanbul Convention reiterates the fact that victim empowerment is a complex task that requires specialized support. It further calls on states to entrust service provision to women’s organizations or local authorities, both possessing the relevant expertise and trained staff to deal with gender-based violence. In terms of state collaboration with women’s NGOs, article 9 of the Convention calls on states to “recognize, encourage and support, at all levels, the work of relevant non-governmental organizations and of civil society active in combating violence against women and establish effective cooperation with these organizations.” This article can particularly be applied to feminist and women’s NGOs and implies state support for these organizations in carrying out the work of supporting women survivors of violence, and other work.

Specialist services include a variety of establishments, among them national women’s helplines, women’s centes, rape crisis centres, and women’s shelters.

Women’s NGOs have been at the forefront and have been the organizations that originally raised awareness of the issue of violence against women, putting the issue on the agendas of state governments. The hard work and motivation of the feminist movement contributed to significant change over recent decades in changing the norms of service provision for survivors of violence and influenced governments to recognize violence against women as a human rights violation. Substantial progress has been achieved, which must be recognized – the progress itself points to societies’ capacity and willingness for change, creating a positive space for much-needed continued and joint action in the future.

The Istanbul Convention is therefore an important tool for preventing and combating violence against women in Europe. As one of the aims, the Step Up! Campaign calls for the ratification and effective implementation in all European states of the Istanbul Convention, with particular emphasis on state accountability to support and sustain specialist women’s support services.

Specialist women’s support services should be survivor-centered and operate from a gendered understanding of violence. Specialist support services should ensure that the rights and needs of women survivors of violence are placed in the centre. In addition to providing important services for survivors, support services are also agents of social change, often conducting prevention work alongside gender-sensitive service provision.

In the Step Up! Campaign, specialist women’s support services are considered vital to meeting the various needs of women survivors of violence, through providing comprehensive responses to free women from different forms of violence. Therefore, specialist support services, many of which are Members of the WAVE Network as well as national campaigners, are vital to addressing gender-based violence and the sustainability of specialist women’s support services are critical for the campaign.