New York, NY, 2020, March
During a soccer match, players can be given a “red card” to indicate their misconduct on the field. The red card indicates to the player, their team, and fans that their behavior cannot be condoned and is punished by ejecting the player off the field. Recently, the red card has gained significance off the field as well, becoming the symbol of a major campaign launched at the United Nations in March 2020, to signify the violation of women’s rights when violence is perpetrated against them.
The mission of The Red Card Campaign is to end the discrimination and violence of women and girls around the globe. The U.S. campaign was launched at a major meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, occurring amidst major upheaval throughout New York City and countries around the world facing the dangerous epidemic outbreak of a new strain of Coronavirus, called COVID-19. The event was one of the last held at the UN headquarters before the building was put in lockdown to prevent the virus spread and all events moved online to be held virtually.
Background about Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls
The Red Card Campaign was inspired by the shocking statistics of violence against women and girls. Around the globe, women and girls are subject to a range of violence and discrimination in their homes, at school, in the workplace and their communities. The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2013, up to 70% of women and girls have experienced some form of physical, sexual, or intimate partner violence from a male perpetrator that they know personally. Many women and girls are also subject to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, denial of education, forced early marriages, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The violence and discrimination that women experience can have severe impacts on them personally, threatening their self-esteem, confidence, and self-agency. The impacts of violence can also inhibit their ability to thrive in their family and society, create cycles of generational violence, and undermining the stability and security of their communities.
The Red Card Campaign
The ultimate mission of The Red Card Campaign is to end the discrimination and violence of women and girls around the globe by raising awareness and calling for action by all stakeholders. As mentioned above, in football (soccer), the “red card” is given to a player who is exhibiting unfair or dangerous behavior during the game. The goal of the Red Card Campaign is to give a “red card” - either in actuality, as shown in the photo above or virtually on the website -- to all forms of discrimination against women and girls in all countries. Supporters of the Red Card Campaign are encouraged to sign the Red Card Pledge (https://redcardpledge.com/) which urges individuals of all genders, community organizations, regional authorities, and governmental bodies to pledge their support to end the violence and discrimination of women and girls. The organizers of the campaign hope to gain a million signatures to the pledge by the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar.
The Red Card Campaign was created and launched by the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network (ARDN), a non-profit organization that serves on the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, whose goal is to support the unity of African Nations and all people of African descent globally. ARDN started the campaign after the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, as a way to spread awareness about the continued violence and discrimination that women and girls face globally. The event on 6 March 2020 at UN headquarters marked the launch of the Red Card Campaign in the United States.
The campaign is consistent with many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UN Agenda 2030, primarily SDG #5 that calls for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls, with targets against violence. Additionally, the Red Card Campaign relates to other SDGs, including SDG #3 that calls for Quality Education for All; SDG #8 about Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG #10 calling for Reduced Inequalities, and SDG #16 promoting Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. The Red Card Campaign urges action by appealing to individuals, associations, and authorities to make SDG #5 a priority by signing the Red Card Pledge, and to emphasize the empowerment of women and girls when designing programs and policy.
Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations
The high rates of violence and discrimination against women and girls globally are receiving increased attention from governments and international organizations, including from the United Nations (UN), the UN Member States, and UN entities. The UN has a strong history of recognizing the need to support the rights of women and girls throughout the globe. In June 1946, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN created the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) to promote women’s rights in political, economic, social, and educational fields. In 1996, the responsibilities of CSW increased after the introduction of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at a meeting of thousands of advocates in Beijing, China, requiring CSW to monitor and review the progress made toward improving the safety and empowerment of women and girls globally. CSW hosts an annual, two-week-long session in which representatives from the UN Member States, UN entities, international civil society organizations, and advocates for women’s rights from diverse backgrounds gather to discuss the actions taken to achieve the goals outlined in the Beijing Platform, advances in the rights and empowerment of women and girls, and the elimination of violence and discrimination of women and girls globally.
The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (referred to as Beijing+25) was scheduled at the United Nations headquarters for March 2020. The anniversary expected to have an unprecedented number of leaders and attendees who represent hundreds of countries and organizations (expected to be 12,000) and offering of a record-breaking total of over 500 sessions. The global launch of the Red Card Campaign was scheduled alongside the landmark CSW conference.
Unfortunately, the timing of the CSW conference coincided with the growing spread—to epidemic proportions -- of a dangerous new strain of SARS-CoV, called the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. In response, UN Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres issued a recommendation to postpone all the sessions of the two-week meeting or hold one very scaled-down opening session, and a statement barring all foreign ministry staff from traveling to the UN to prevent contracting and/or spreading the potentially lethal COVID-19.
On 2 March 2020, the UN Member States, UNWomen (the UN agency that convenes CSW), and the CSW/NGO agreed on the Secretary General's recommendations. All foreign travelers were advised not to come to New York City or the UN Headquarters. Plus, all CSW events were canceled. The only remaining CSW event to beheld in person at the building was a “procedural” meeting on 9 March, held in the large UN General Assembly Hall, to adopt the previously prepared Declaration with some government statements. However, the procedural meeting was only to be attended by only local member states and accredited NGOs and there was no discussion. It would, however, have speakers and performances to celebrate the Beijing+25 date.
Although events associated with CSW were canceled, the global launch of the Red Card Campaign remained on schedule since it was not under the aegis of CSW even though the subject matter was related to the mission of CSW. Thus, “The Global Launch of the Campaign to Give a Red Card Against All Forms of Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls” took place at UN headquarters, in a large conference room, Conference Room 2, from 3 PM-6 PM on Friday, 6 March 2020. The event brought together members of UN leadership, representatives from UN Member States, representatives from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and professional athletes, to launch the global campaign to “Give a Red Card Against All Forms of Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls.”
The Red Card Campaign Launch at the UN
Besides it’s major sponsor of ARDN, as described above, the 2020 UN event for the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign was co-sponsored by two UN member states governments, namely, the Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Costa Rica, as well as the Office of the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Tijani Muhammad-Bande. The Campaign was also co-sponsored by two UN entities, namely, UN Women, organizers of CSW and the UN entity tasked with promoting the safety and empowerment of women and girls through policy, interventions, and research; and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN entity tasked with promoting accessible sexual and reproductive health globally.
Alongside governments and UN agencies, the Red Card Campaign was co-sponsored by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which is the international governing body of competitive football (soccer), futsal (a variant of soccer played on a hard court), beach soccer, and e-football; and the host of the World Cup football international tournament. NGOs also co-sponsored the event, including the Give Them A Hand Foundation which was founded by the Red Card Campaign’s Global Launch producer, Mr. Gordon Tapper. Tapper is a 25-year veteran Chief of Section at the UN.
The turnout of the event was more limited than anticipated due to the travel restrictions and ban on live events due to concerns about COVID-19. Nevertheless, there was considerable attendance, all of whom were upbeat and enthused about the message and potential impact of the Red Card Campaign as well as the line-up of speakers, music and other elements of the program, including a torch-passing from youth to the panelists. The speakers and performers were an exceptionally impressive group from all sectors, including government representatives, many agencies, academia, experts, NGOs, and youth.
The Global Launch had an impressive number of components – more than many such events -- including individual speeches from high-level government leaders, heads of UN Agencies and organizations, sports stars, and academic heads, as well as panel discussions, a torch-handing ceremony with youth, agreement signings, videos, and live music.
The Event Program
The event began with opening remarks from Dr. Djibril Diallo, President and CEO of ARDN. Dr. Diallo also introduced the moderators, Joelle Monlouis, a sports law attorney from France and Pro Bono Counsel for FIFA, and Nonhlanhla Jiyane, Director for South Africa and Representative to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for ARDN.
Additional opening remarks were made by Hon. Constance B. Newman, Chair of the Board for ARDN. She asked attendees to analyze the reasons why they chose to attend the Global Launch and to determine what they hope to accomplish by supporting an initiative like the Red Card Campaign. Her reasons for why she chose to support the Red Card Campaign included to learn from global experts about the best strategies to fight injustices against women and girls and to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She also highlighted that it is very important to understand the role that youth play in this campaign, saying that it important to understand, “…the role that they’ve played in the present and in the future to address the concerns about the rights of women and girls.”
The Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA and the Assistant Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Dereje Wordofa, also gave introductory remarks. Mr. Wordofa said that he and UNFPA support the Red Card Campaign Pledge because the Campaign supports those who are working to end violence against women and girls. He also said that the Red Card Campaign supports the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to empower women and girls as well as reduce rates of femicide, intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and harassment. The scale of violence against women and girls is profound and systemic, he said, with up to 1 in 3 women and girls experiencing forms of physical and sexual violence, including rape and genital mutilation, that have major impacts on their physical and reproductive health.
“We cannot make real progress if one-half of humanity continues to be denied their full rights and equal opportunities,” he remarked.
Following Mr. Wordofa, the keynote address was delivered by H.E. Ms. Epsy Campbell-Barr, First Vice President of the Republic of Costa Rica, speaking via teleconference. Like many others, she could not attend the Global Launch in-person due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. H.E. Campbell-Barr declared that Costa Rica proudly joins other supporters of the Red Card Campaign to end all forms of violence and discrimination of women and girls. In fact, H.E. Campbell-Barr is serving as the co-chair of the ARDN committee that oversees the progress of the Red Card Campaign. She also applauded the work that the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network have done to address the issues of violence and discrimination of women and girls, alongside governments and organizations such as her own of Costa Rica, as well as of Nigeria, the UN, and FIFA. She noted that soccer can be a great tool to build support for anti-violence and anti-discrimination initiatives, and specifically called for men to sign the Red Card Pledge and contribute to positive social change. Her message was well-received by audience members.
Following H.E. Campbell-Barr’s remarks, the Minister to the Mission of Nigeria, Mr. Nnamdi Okechuku Nze, provided a statement. He noted that even though the threat of COVID-19 removed the possibility of the in-person meeting for CSW, the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign provided a space to address the very important issues of violence and discrimination of women and girls. Noting that the government of Nigeria is proud to sponsor the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign, not only “gives a red card to those who perpetrate violence and discrimination of women and girls,” Nigeria also gives a “green card” to those who support efforts to address the issue. Importantly, he addressed the need to understand the drivers of discrimination and violence to create impactful solutions and empower women.
In the next presentation, Ms. Laurence Fischer, a three-time national champion Karateka (a martial arts action game) and the Ambassador for Sport from the French Republic discussed the discrimination of women in sports. Ms. Fisher is a known advocate for female athletes who experience violence and discrimination in the athletic world. In her speech, she discussed how unequal pay, sexism, and even sexual violence from coaches is very prominent in the sports world, and initiatives like the Red Card Campaign can be helpful to address the issues faced by female athletes.
Ms. Gillian Sorensen, a Member of the Board of the International Rescue Committee and former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations under the administration of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also provided a statement. She noted that the work required to address violence and discrimination of women and girls can’t be done purely by diplomats. Instead, she recommends that members of all sectors, especially sports, should be equally involved in this work. In a similar tone to the other panelists, Ms. Sorensen stressed the importance for women and girls to be safe from harm, have access to education and reproductive healthcare, and to be empowered to fulfill their dreams.
The Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, kicked off the Youth segment of the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign. Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka gave a speech outlining the role of UN Women and other organizations that work to end violence and discrimination against women and girls, including the Generation Equality Initiative to address the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. She highlighted the uniqueness of the Red Card Campaign, since it features the role that youth play in the work to end violence and discrimination of women and girls, uses sports as a way to reach across cultural barriers. She discussed how governments, organizations, and diverse stakeholders need to work together to create a better future for women and youth. She noted that the Red Card Campaign is also incorporating the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and is effective at recognizing the ways the intersectional nature of violence and discrimination.
Following Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s remarks, a video featuring young female athletes was shown. Athletes discussed the discrimination they face in sports and in society, and its impacts. The video concluded with a call to action from the athletes featured in the video, specifically asking viewers to sign the Red Card Pledge.
After this viewing, in a dramatic ceremony, a group of youth representatives at the UN came down the aisle of the conference room to the front of the room while bearing a lit torch (with artificial light, in keeping with safety regulations). Then, a female youth representative delivered a speech calling on everyone to sign the Red Card Pledge to eliminate violence and discrimination against women and girls, which attendees did, on the spot, using their cell phones, by going to: https://redcardpledge.com/. The youth then handed the torch to Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka and Mr. Wordofa.
The Executive Director of UN Habitat, Mrs. Maimunah Mohd Sharif sent her remarks on the Red Card Campaign via a video message. She expressed strong support for the Red Card Campaign, saying how the mission of the campaign aligns with the goals of UN Habitat to create more inclusive and safe communities. She commented on the discrimination and violence perpetrated against women and girls who reside in urban settings, and how violence prevention efforts should take a multi-stakeholder approach and exist alongside other sustainability efforts. Specifically, she remarked that the most impactful interventions are those that take a “participatory approach” and include those who are most impacted by systemic issues.
Further remarks supporting for the Red Card Campaign were made by the New York Director and Representative to the UN from UNESCO, Ms. Marie Paule Roudil; Mr. Jean-Marc Adjovi-Boci, a former professional athlete and the Special Advisor and General Manager of the Diambars soccer team; and the Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau of Africa for United Nations Development, Dr. Noura Hamladji.
In a riveting speech about the Red Card Campaign, Dr. Johnetta Cole, President and National Chair of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), honored the work and legacy of NCNW, which works to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent through education, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, promoting mental and physical health, civic engagement, and public policy. She recognized the founders of NCNW who organized with the UN, as well as the work of Dr. Diallo and Hon. Newman. In a ceremony, Dr. Diallo then presented Dr. Cole with the Red Card Pledge, which she signed on behalf of NCNW, as an MOU (memorandum of understanding between the two organizations).
In her speech, Ms. Marie-Evelyn-Petrus-Barry, Regional Director for Africa for International Planned Parenthood, remarked that her support of the Red Card Campaign.stems from the systemic violence against women and girls of African descent, and the need to address that violence through action and policy. Ms. Petrus-Barry also signed the Red Card Pledge with Dr. Diallo and signed an MOU on behalf of International Planned Parenthood.
After the signing of the Red Card Pledge by Dr. Cole and Ms. Marie-Evelyn-Petrus-Barry, a powerful video called Un Violador en tu Camino was shown to the audience. The video shows the Chilean protest song about the rape and sexual violence that many women experience around the world, and the lack of attention it gets from their communities, the police, and the government. The protest song and dance became very popular at the end of 2019 and quickly spread around the world. When it was shown to the attendees of the Global Launch for the Red Card Campaign, it was met with a lot of emotion and applause.
After the video, Mr. Roshan Cherri, Principal Architect from Cherri Global, an architecture firm focused on sustainability, made remarks emphasizing the need to give women equal pay in the workplace. Mr. Cherri said that equal pay initiatives are a very important step in decreasing the discrimination that women experience in the workplace.
After Mr. Cherri’s speech, he joined a panel of speakers to discuss how the private and academic sectors can work to decrease the discrimination of women and girls. The panel included the Chancellor of Webster University, Dr. Elizabeth Stroble; the Senior Director of African Operations for Lagardere Sports, Mr. Makan Magassouba; and the Manager Generel de Lanfiara Management Sport, Mr. Abdoulaye Diabate. The panel answered questions from the two moderators, Joelle Monlouis and Nonhlanhla Jiyane, about how to decrease discrimination in athletics and in the private sector, and how to increase access to education and sports for women and girls. Mr. Magassouba and Mr. Diabate both commented on how they actively work to empower women in their communities to participate in sports. Dr. Stroble discussed how universities can promote programs in science, engineering, and mathematics for girls in school. All of the panelists gave unwavering support for the Red Card Campaign.
The panel had to end before the panel could answer many questions. After the panelists left the stage, rapper and opera singer Zakiyyah Sutton came to the stage to sing. She sang an acapella version of her song Shades of Black: The Hip-Hopera, which concluded the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign on an upbeat and exciting note.
Due to scheduling, several speakers could not attend the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign. These included the UN Deputy Secretary General, H.E. Mrs. Amina J. Mohammed; the Executive Director of UNFPA and Under Secretary General of the UN, Dr. Natalia Kanem; the Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Peacebuilding and Peace Operations at the UN, Ms. Bintou Keita; the President and CEO of the African Development Foundation, Mr. C.D. Glin; and the President and CEO of Wilkinson Group Dr. David Wilkinson. The President of the National Association of Black Journalists, Ms. Dorothy Tucker, arrived at the end.
There were many reasons why I chose to attend the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign. When the UN decided to cancel the 64th session of CSW, I was devastated that I would miss such a monumental event. I was deeply looking forward to the hundreds of events dedicated to combatting the discrimination and violence that happens to women and girls around the globe. The prevention and response of gender-based, sexual, and intimate partner violence is a major focus of my clinical psychology degree. However, for the sake of everyone’s health, I believe that the UN ultimately made the right choice. When I saw that the event for the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign managed to stay on schedule, even after the cancellation of CSW64, I made every effort to be there. I was glad to attend with my professor, Dr. Judy Kuriansky and several of my classmates. We all felt very privileged to be able to be there in person for this spectacular and important event before the rigid lockdown rules were imposed.
Before performing her song, singer Zakiyyah Sutton made a comment that really resonated with me. She told the audience that she was singing acapella due to a technical difficulty, and that she would perform even though it was uncomfortable and not what she had planned. When describing her discomfort, she said, “How can I be here as an advocate for the Red Card Campaign if I only worked when it was convenient for me?” Even though it was inconvenient and unplanned to sing her song without music, she still chose to sing. That message was consistent with the theme of the campaign that women triumph through difficulties.
Zakiyyah Sutton’s message highlighted a major sentiment of the Red Card Campaign that even when it isn’t comfortable and the work fights against the grain of society, still, the work to end violence and discrimination needs to happen, and happen soon, for the sake of women, girls, and their communities. Even in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic, leaders, scholars, students, and activists came together to pledge their support for the Red Card Campaign. When traveling was not an option, global leaders found a way to get their message heard at the Global Launch via Skype. Together, everyone found a way to work with the resources they had to make sure that the rights of women and girls remains a focus at the United Nations. Psychologists who work alongside governments and organizations whose aim is to end the violence and discrimination of women and girls must also be okay with the discomfort that comes with this work, especially as the world adjusts to a new sense of normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are interested in signing The Red Card Campaign Pledge, please visit https://redcardpledge.com/. If you are interested in watching the Global Launch of the Red Card Campaign, please visit http://webtv.un.org/search/equal-light-red-card-campaign-global-launch/6139204333001/?term=&lan=english&page=12
TITLE: Global Launch of the Campaign to Give a Red Card Against All Forms of Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls
Date/Time: Friday, 6 March 2020, 2:45PM-5:50PM.
Location: United Nations Headquarters, New York City, and Conference Room 2
Moderator: Dr. Djibril Diallo, President and CEO, African Renaissance and Diaspora Network; Joelle Monlouis, Sports law attorney for the Pro Bono Council, FIFA; Nonhlanhla Jiyane, Director for South Africa and Representative to SADCC, African Renaissance Diaspora Network.
Panelists: Hon. Constance B. Newman, Chair of the Board, African Renaissance and Diaspora Network; Mr. Dereje Wordofa, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA; Assistant Secretary General, United Nations; H.E. Ms. Epsy Campbell-Barr, First Vice President of the Republic of Costa Rica; Mr. Nnamdi Okechuku Nze, Minister to the Mission of Nigeria; Ms. Laurence Fischer, Ambassador for Sport, French Republic; Ms. Gillian Sorensen, Member of the Board, International Rescue Committee; Mrs. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat; Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, New York Director and Representative to the UN, UNESCO; Mr. Jean-Marc Adjovi-Boco, Special Adviser and general Manager of Diambars; Dr. Noura Hamladji, Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau of Africa, United Nations Development; Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Dr. Johnetta Cole, President and National Chair, National Council of Negro Women; Ms. Marie-Evelyn-Petrus-Barry, Regional Director for Africa, International Planned Parenthood; Mr. Roshan Cherri, Principal Architect, Cherri Global; Dr. Elizabeth Stroble, Chancellor, Webster University; Mr. Makan Magassouba, Senior Director of African Operations for Lagardere Sports; Mr. Abdoulaye Diabate, Manager General de Lanfiara Management Sport.
Reported by Sydney Starkweather, a member of the Student Division of the International Association of Applied Psychology pursuing the master’s degree in clinical psychology in the Department of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Teachers College, and student in Professor Judy Kuriansky’s class on “Psychology and the United Nations.” In addition to scholastic work, Sydney has five years of experience working with survivors of gender-based, sexual and intimate partner violence.
Dr. Judy Kuriansky, United Nations NGO representative, International Association of Applied Psychology; Faculty, Department of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University Teachers College; Chair, Global Council 3 on Health, “SDGs in Action” United Arab Emirates initiative; Trustee, United African Congress; columnist, Black Star News; Board of Directors, Library of American Broadcasting
 World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, p.2.
 UNICEF (2019). What you need to know about female genital mutilation- How the harmful practice affects millions of girls worldwide; UNICEF (2016). Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A global concern; and United Nations (2018). Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, Report of the Secretary-General, p.18.
 UNICEF (2019). Child marriage around the world- Infographic and UNICEF (2017). Is every child counted? Status of Data for Children in the SDGs, p. 54
For citation of this article, use:
Starkweather, S, & Kuriansky, J. (2020, March). The Red Card Campaign: Global Launch Against All Forms of Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls. International Association of Applied Psychology: IAAP at the UN. https://iaapsy.org/iaap-and-the-united-nations/reports-meetings-events/the-red-card-campaign-global-launch-against-all-forms-of-violence-and-discrimination-against-women-and-girls/