MY FORRESTER GROUNDSWELL AWARD:UN Women’s #HeForShe Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality

Emma Watson's #HeForShe quote

Gender inequality is one of the most persistent and egregious human rights violations in the world. While much has been achieved by women’s rights activists, progress has been uneven and no country has fully realized gender equality.

In 2014, UN Women determined it was the optimal time to capitalize on the recognition that women’s empowerment is essential for inclusive economic growth, social cohesion and social justice, environmental balance, and for progress in all spheres of life. In an unprecedented move by a women-focused organization, UN Women developed the #HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality, to call men and boys to the global movement to make gender equality a reality for all, both as advocates and stakeholders.

The campaign: #HeForShe

On September 20, 2014, UN Women launched #HeForShe with a monumental speech delivered by Emma Watson, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, at the UN Headquarters. The video of the speech went viral as people around the world expressed their solidarity. Since that time, more than 11 million people have viewed the video.

#HeForShe called upon men and boys around the world to take a stand in support of gender equality by making the #HeForShe commitment. As an initial goal, the campaign aimed to secure support from 100,000 men and boys within a year – #HeForShe secured that many supporters within a week. Shortly after its launch, the hashtag exploded, and unlike so many other campaigns that go viral and quickly fade, #HeForShe continued to reach new levels of success over time by capitalizing on the momentum of celebrity endorsements, ultimately uniting nations in conversation and reaching entirely new audiences from around the globe.

The social impact

The #HeForShe campaign is the most successful campaign to date for UN Women. It was named by Twitter as one of the catalytic moments of 2014. The campaign has shattered all expectations; it more than doubled its initial goal of gaining support from 100,000 men via online pledges by the end of 2014. Further, within less than two weeks after launch, there were 1.1 million #HeForShe tweets by more than 750,000 different people, reaching 1.2 billion unique Twitter users.

The #HeForShe hashtag and accompanying social media campaign have been instrumental to the continued success of the initiative. Early on, the campaign was able to capitalize on growing momentum and drive social media users to make commitments.  The sophistication of its execution from the beginning has been essential; as an example, UN Women streamlined and promoted content from the campaign across all of its global accounts on Hootsuite. Over time, it has used its channels to share compelling content to stay engaged with is followers and fans and garner many new ones.

The connection between the campaign’s online and offline life has also been integral to its sustainability. #HeForShe has coordinated with UN Women affiliated offices around the world to bring real-world results back to social, thus repeatedly keeping followers engaged and educated on progress. Arguably most importantly, the hashtag has become a rallying cry for everyone from celebrity influencers to women and men across the world, capturing a diverse audience that feels like they’re finally being heard and united under the same conversation.

With #HeForShe, everyone is given an equal voice in the discussion. No longer is the conversation regarding gender equality one-sided, or even two-sided – it is about breaking down barriers to ensure one half of humanity is working for the other half of humanity for the benefit of all.  In doing so, #HeForShe has created an unprecedented movement both online and offline.