Using a HeForShe Ideathon to Tackle Gender Based Violence

As part of the Efficiency Exchange series on student mental health and wellbeing, Kate Williams shares with us how the University of Leicester addresses gender based violence on campus through the HeForShe campaign.

Gender based violence (GBV) on UK campuses has rightly become an important topic, prompted by local and National Union of Students (NUS) surveys and bolstered by the 2016 UUK report examining violence against women and its effect on students.   Never before has such a spotlight been placed on this subject in the Higher Education sector– and a HEFCE Catalyst funding call has encouraged universities to take action. This funding has enabled many universities to make an investment to work up clear strategies to raise awareness of GBV, educate both staff and students on its prevalence and most importantly work effectively to address it.

We know that student services have long been working on addressing GBV, but this increasing emphasis means that this topic is reaching ever wider and increasingly senior audiences who are saying: This is a problem. It isn’t okay and we are taking steps to tackle it.

So what’s different about the University of Leicester?  Well, we are uniquely placed to shine a spotlight on our activity to address gender based violence on campus through our international connection with the HeForShe campaign.  This campaign draws together 10 heads of states, 10 CEOs of international corporations and 10 university vice chancellors across the world, each of whom have made three commitments to challenge gender inequality, but in addition they have made a collective commitment to challenge gender based violence. For the 10 Universities involved this has meant convening student ‘Ideathons’ on the subject of gender based violence.

heforshe logo

So, what is an ideathon?

  • It’s a physical brainstorming session that generates solutions for key problems.
  • It supports students to invent, distill, and elevate meaningful solutions for action around gender based violence on campuses
  • It crowd-sources actionable solutions to this pressing issue from every corner of the world linking with our HeForShe partners
  • It generates solutions that contribute to a global toolkit of suggestions inspired and created by young people.

In 2016, we hosted our first Ideathon on campus (along with our fellow university HeForShe impact champions across the world) and students generated a range of ideas to supplement our existing policies and processes to confront GBV.

The day comprised a stand on campus hosted by our student @HeForShe_UoL society. There were a range of awareness raising activities and opportunities for students, passing by between lectures to make suggestions of how we can address GBV.

The stand was supplemented by a facilitated event at which over 60 students focussed on generating new and innovative solutions for confronting GBV.


We took forward three student suggestions from our Ideathon:

  1. Inclusion of an awareness raising item in the Vice-chancellors matriculation address to all new students on gender based violence on campus, and the seriousness with which the University is addressing it.
  2. We worked with a local artist to generate a piece of hard hitting art that raised awareness of GBV and acts as a catalyst for conversation on the subject
  3. We, along with our students worked with a writer and theatre producer to develop a 30 minute play about the day to day expression of gender based violence faced by students. The play was performed to actors at various settings on campus aswell as to a group of university leaders and heads of departments. Insert video link.

We are hosting our next HeForShe ideathon on GBV on 1 February 2018, this is an area that needs a continuous and consistent focus and as new students join us each year we are excited to hear their suggestions for new and innovative ways to raise awareness, educate and tackle GBV.

Call to action

We are keen for other universities to take up the challenge of hosting their own HeForShe ideathons on GBV and can offer advice and support both from UoL and our UN HeForShe partner focal point. Do get in touch if you would like to link with us on an ideathon or just to get a bit more detail about how we organised our own on

Kate Williams
Health Services Researcher in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester.