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White Ribbon Australia statement: Dr Tanveer Ahmed & Clementine Ford

10 February 2015

This Q&A has been prepared in response to an opinion piece by Dr. Tanveer Ahmed published in The Australian on 9 February 2015, an opinion piece by Clementine Ford published on Daily Life on 10 February 2015 and a number of comments White Ribbon Australia has received on social media, by email and by phone since 9 February 2015.

If you have any questions relating to this Q&A please contact Alex Opitz on (02) 9281 1692 or by email alex@sbpr.com.au

You can also find out more about White Ribbon Australia by visiting our website: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/ 

Q: Does White Ribbon Australia endorse the views of Dr. Tanveer Ahmed as expressed in his opinion piece published in The Australian on 10 February 2015?

A: White Ribbon Australia does not endorse the opinion piece Dr. Ahmed wrote for The Australian. White Ribbon Australia was not involved in writing or reviewing the article. We were not aware the piece was going to be published and did not consent to its publication.

In future, Dr. Ahmed has agreed to publish all opinion pieces with a note identifying the opinions as his own and not those of White Ribbon Australia.

Q: Will White Ribbon Australia revoke the ambassadorship of Dr. Tanveer Ahmed based on the opinion piece published in The Australian on 10 February 2015?

A: White Ribbon Australia will not revoke the ambassadorship of Dr. Ahmed based on the opinion piece published in The Australian on 10 February 2015.

We have discussed the piece with Dr. Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed has agreed to participate in the Ambassador recommitment process, which includes training and the review of his suitability to remain a White Ribbon Ambassador.

Q: How do men become White Ribbon Ambassadors?

A: The number of White Ribbon Ambassadors has grown considerably over the past 5 years to just over 2,200 Ambassadors across Australia. White Ribbon Australia reviewed the Ambassador nomination and selection process in 2013/14. Since the end of 2014 all men nominating to become a White Ribbon Ambassador must:

  • Complete online training developed by White Ribbon Australia titled First Steps: key knowledge and skills for White Ribbon Ambassadors before their application is progressed
  • Participate in an interview with White Ribbon Australia
  • Provide two referees able to attest to their character and commitment to ending men’s violence against women

This information is used to determine a person’s suitability as a White Ribbon Ambassador. All Ambassadors approved before 2011 are being asked to renominate themselves in accordance with the revised nomination approach outlined above.

A review of the White Ribbon Ambassador program in 2014 also made clear the need for Ambassadors to annually demonstrate their commitment to White Ribbon Australia and the campaign.

Very infrequently, White Ribbon Australia is made aware of instances where Ambassadors may have contravened the duties and expectations we have of them as White Ribbon Ambassadors. Complainants are asked to complete a feedback form and the complaint is referred to the White Ribbon Australia Board for assessment and action.

Information on this process is readily available on our website: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/ambassadors

Q: What role do women play in White Ribbon Australia?

A: Women have played an invaluable role in the growth and success of White Ribbon Australia and continue to do so. To formally recognise the role of women in White Ribbon Australia, we launched the White Ribbon Advocates Program in late 2014. Information about the Advocates program is readily available on our website: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/advocates.

Women’s commitment to the prevention of men’s violence against women has its roots in the feminist movement. It was the feminist movement that first drew public attention to the issue of men’s violence against women and it has been predominately women’s voices and activism that have driven positive change in this space. Over 100 years of feminist scholarship and activism have generated research, action and reform regarding men’s violence against women. This work inspires the efforts of the White Ribbon movement together with the understanding that, alongside this voice and activism, there needs to be the more active engagement of men in order to address the underlying causes of this violence. 

Q: What is White Ribbon Australia’s relationship with frontline services that assist and support women experiencing male violence?

A: White Ribbon Australia is distinct from frontline women’s services in that we focus on the prevention of men’s violence against women, as opposed to providing services and support for women experiencing violence. The work of frontline services is essential and seriously underfunded. We acknowledge the serious funding threats facing these organisations and have publicly and repeatedly called for greater investment in them.

White Ribbon Australia will always advocate for greater investment in the prevention of men’s violence against women, but never at the expense of adequate investment in vital frontline services.

Q: What does White Ribbon Australia do with all the money it gets?

A: Some commentators are under the misapprehension that White Ribbon Australia receives and generates considerable financial resources. We take this opportunity to remind our critics that White Ribbon Australia is a small not-for-profit organisation. Our revenue in 2013/14 was $2,697,261. This information can be readily accessed via our Annual Report (see our website for copies of our Annual Reports: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/publications/previous-annual-reports).

Government funding constitutes less than 10% of this revenue. We fund the White Ribbon Campaign and Programs through the generosity of the Australian public and our corporate partners. We have also worked hard to build a sustainable business model, including developing a fee-for-service program and a merchandise line, to help support our continued existence and avoid any reliance on government funding.

Revenue from donations, grants and sales goes towards:

  • Promoting respectful relationships in schools via our Breaking the Silence Schools Program in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia (see our website for information on this program: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/schools)
  • Supporting Australian workplaces to prevent and respond to men’s violence against women through the White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Program (see our website for information on this program: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/workplaces)
  • Running a national campaign raising awareness about men’s violence against women on TV, radio and online
  • Supporting individuals and groups to develop responses to prevention of men’s violence against women within their communities

This work is done by a small and committed team of 19 men and women. You can learn more about White Ribbon programs on our website: http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/programs.

Clementine Ford, in her opinion piece published on Daily Life on 10 February 2015, claims that White Ribbon Australia has aligned with ‘a more corporate, mainstream agenda’.

White Ribbon Australia fosters relationships with corporate partners to achieve social change. We do this because:

  1. Partners are vital to reaching and engaging Australian men
  2. Their financial support is vital to the campaign

This is a strategy adopted by many other charities and is essential in an increasingly unstable funding environment.

Q: Is White Ribbon Australia making a difference?

A: White Ribbon Australia’s vision is that all women live in safety, free from all forms of men’s violence against women. This is an ambitious long-term goal that we all play a part in achieving.

156,636 people have taken the White Ribbon Oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women. The White Ribbon has become a symbol for communities around Australia that unites our efforts to prevent men’s violence against women. It is easy to underestimate the impact and importance of the Oath and the white ribbon to preventing men’s violence against women. White Ribbon community events often involve groups taking the oath and wearing a white ribbon. These events are an accessible and safe way for people to meet and talk about men’s violence against women, an issue that remains a taboo in many communities. Through encouraging people to wear a white ribbon and take the White Ribbon Oath, these events are also an opportunity to get people actively involved in the prevention of men’s violence against women. Over 1000 community events were held in 2014, an increase of 400% since 2010.

Importantly, indicators demonstrate that White Ribbon Programs are making a difference. Breaking the Silence and the Workplace Accreditation Program have been independently evaluated. These evaluations have shown that the work of White Ribbon Australia is successfully changing people’s attitudes about men’s violence against women and beginning to change people’s attitudes and behaviours.

This program work is supported by the national campaign, which is growing year-on-year in terms of scale and impact. We now reach two million people across our social media channels.

To formalise our commitment to measuring the impact of our work, White Ribbon Australia is developing a social impact measurement framework to track progress towards our vision. This also contributes to the transparency of our work and the accountability of our organisation.