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Engaging with your community

Two things stop people from receiving help when they are impacted by forced marriage in Australia. These are:

  1. Silence on the issue – we don’t often talk about our rights around marriage.

  2. A lack of awareness of what forced marriage is, and that it’s happening here.

These two points reinforce each other, and mean that only around a few hundred people experiencing enormous pressures to marry might be identified out of what could be thousands of people.

While forced marriage is almost invisible, it’s relevant to so many conversations that are playing out across our society. This graphic shows you some examples of these.


Including forced marriage in these conversations can create space for those impacted to recognise it in their own experiences, talk about it, and seek support.

This is why we need to start conversations, draw attention to this issue, and make each other aware – so that people know their rights around marriage, and know how and where to get help.

We can each make a difference in our own way.

You could make sure that even just one more person knows that it’s happening. Or you could go bigger: by setting up an event, petition or fundraiser. Every effort makes a difference.

This section will take you through 10 steps to choosing and creating your own conversation-starting strategy. But first, we note the advantages and pitfalls of deciding to engage online versus offline.

In-person or online?

One of the biggest questions when deciding what action to take, is whether it should be done in-person, online, or both. Our project has found that in-person educational and awareness-raising opportunities are highly effective in this area. This is because forced marriage is a complex and sensitive topic that benefits from a more in-depth and tailored educational experience. However, online campaigns have their own unique advantages. The kind of action you decide to take will partly be determined by your own skills and interests, including in the digital space.

Engaging in face-to-face advocacy can mean that your efforts reach a smaller amount of people. There can be an assumption that the more people you reach (or the more clicks you gain), the better – and this is often true. But attaining this level of reach can mean having to significantly simplify your message. While a simplified message can be a gateway to a rich educational experience, many people will only see the ‘simple’ version and choose not to engage further. Depending on your message, simple can sometimes be good; but for a complex topic like forced marriage, your messaging needs to be decided with care. Sometimes a more in-depth learning experience with a limited audience can be more powerful and have a greater ripple effect.

However, there are also great advantages to online advocacy. There is also the possibility of combining the two worlds, by creating a hybrid event: for example, launching a fundraiser in-person, then continuing to raise funds online (with in-person participants able to share and boost the campaign). Below we list some common benefits and pitfalls of online and in-person actions.

  • Potentially much broader reach

  • Doesn’t have set start and finish times – your advocacy could be easier to discover and to access 

  • Depending on your skillset, it may be easier (or a welcome challenge) to create online materials and/or a campaign

  • Your campaign can be highly accessible, across state and international borders, and is minimum-commitment (e.g. not committing to physically be in a certain time and place)

  • Can be cost-effective: no need to hire or negotiate for a venue, etc.

  • Potential to work anonymously, if you wish to do so 

  • An effective medium for a petition or fundraiser 

  • Easier to execute and less effort in terms of: securing a physical space for the event, gathering attendees, organisational and logistical efforts, etc.

  • In anonymous online interactions with the public, we are more likely to hear ugly or offensive comments – and it is difficult to hold people accountable (for more information on dealing with this, see ‘Responding to Prejudice and Racism’ in Section 4

  • Lends itself to more simplistic, bite-sized messaging that can be misinterpreted 

  • More challenging to humanise the issue of forced marriage online – it is easier for an audience to dismiss the human element and ask ‘How is this my problem? Why should I care?’

  • Over-saturated environment with thousands of issues, news stories, etc. competing for people’s attention – you do not have the full focus of an in-person audience

  • Face-to-face interactions, humanising the issue and making it feel more ‘real’

  • More likely to have people’s full attention, distractions are minimised

  • Room for a more deep and sustained engagement on the issue

  • By dedicating real-world time and space to it, it places greater importance on this topic

  • Demonstrates community leadership in engaging on the issue

  • You may be more likely to know your audience (not necessarily individually, but on a broader community level), and can shape your message accordingly

  • Audience members more likely to donate, to commit to something – in short, to fulfil your call-to-action (CTA)

  • Limited audience

  • Asking a greater commitment of people: giving their time, attention, money, etc.

  • Can be difficulty in finding a time that everyone is available and able to commit 

  • Unlikely to be able to do it anonymously

10 Steps to Raise Awareness


1. Start with yourself

Ask yourself the following questions:

What does marriage mean to you?

Be aware of your own assumptions about marriage, and know that marriage means different things to different people. Depending on your culture, religion or background, marriage could mean ‘family’, ‘commitment’, 'connection’, ‘love’ and ‘security’. It might be something important to you, or it might not be at all.

All of these values are valid. What matters is that you can freely say YES or NO.

Why is this issue important to you?

Maybe this is an issue that resonates with you personally. Perhaps you’ve seen a family member or friend have to deal with enormous pressures to marry. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself.

(If you’re experiencing these pressures now, we encourage you to reach out to us and learn about your options)

Maybe you’ve never been touched by this issue personally, but you recognise that it’s unfair, impacts people terribly, and needs to change.

We encourage you to ask yourself: Why is this problem important to you? How does it make you feel? What do you think needs to change? Who else do you think should be paying attention, and be doing something about it?

Do you have a trusted support network?

Be aware: Depending on our relationship to the issue, forced marriage can bring up challenging thoughts, feelings and even memories for us. Make sure you are aware of what might come up for you when doing this work. Think of a close friend or loved one that you can check in with, who you know will listen if you need to debrief.

Take care: Remember to take care of yourself: you’re trying to do something great and impactful, but make your wellbeing your number one priority. This could mean adjusting your expectations for your campaign idea, or your approach; it could mean sharing the responsibility, by finding a project partner or a group; or it could even mean discontinuing. Everything is on the table. See Step 9: ‘Stay Safe’ for more information.

2. Learn about forced marriage

Read up: If you’re looking to start conversations around forced marriage, it really helps to read up on the problem. You can find the answers to your own questions, and understand the issue more fully. Section Two of this resource, ‘The facts and the myths’, gives you some key information and answers to common questions.

To learn how forced marriage can happen, here is a one minute video about an Australian true story. While it ends well for Lina, before watching please note that there is a brief depiction of family violence

People experiencing forced marriage are human just like you

Never let the image of people impacted by forced marriage become one-dimensional: they are not only ‘victim/survivors’, but full human beings with different needs, experiences, hopes for the future, and ways of moving forward.

You can explore our My Blue Sky website to learn more about forced marriage.

Visit this page to access our helpful resources.

Appreciate the grey area: Forced marriage can be broad and complex. As the graphic at the top of this section shows, it intersects with many issues. It’s important to keep the complexity in mind, not be judgemental, and not to see things as black and white. Approach your conversations and awareness raising around forced marriage with openness and empathy for those involved. Look at Section Two to learn more about why forced marriages happen.

Remember the people at the centre: Look towards the voices of people with lived experience. Read and learn about their experiences. If you know people who have gone through this, and they’re comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences with you, listen to them.

3. Identify your community for awareness-raising

Who do you think needs to know most about this issue? For example, youth are the most at-risk age group in Australia, and so it can make a difference to spread the message among young people. Are there other groups that you’re a part of who could benefit from learning about forced marriage?

You can never be too specific in choosing your community. Your choice of audience will inform how you take action, and helps you to understand what will speak most to people. It helps you to determine your call-to-action: what, specifically, do you want your chosen community to learn? What do you want them to do? You can use our Community Mindmap to help you work through key questions when choosing a strategy and message that will work for your community.

Download the Mindmap to type into it directly and save your own version, print it off, or use the prompts for your own notes.


Remember that for your efforts to work, you generally need to be a part of the community that you’re engaging with. It’s almost never a good idea for people to run a campaign targeted at another community that they otherwise don’t interact with.

4. Seek out opportunities

Think about your environments: school, university, work, community, your place of worship. Consider the important events and days throughout their (or your) calendar. Looking at the graphic at the top of this section, you can see that there are so many different ways for us to think about forced marriage, and so many issues that it can overlap with. Consider whether you have an opportunity put forced marriage in the spotlight.

You can also start conversations about forced marriage by pairing it with existing awareness campaigns, events or days. We provide a customised version of the United Nations’ Human Rights Calendar, listing key dates for drawing attention to important topics that relate to forced marriage. You could use one of these days as a springboard to raise awareness or start conversations through a certain lens (e.g. International Youth Day). The theme of the event or campaign might also shape what your awareness-raising looks like.

5. Decide on your action

Now that you have chosen a date or an event, and a community, it’s time to think about the best ways to engage with them. Below we provide common forms of action that can start conversations in different ways, and with different audiences.

Remember that you can use the Community Mindmap under Step 3 to brainstorm your chosen community’s needs, interests, habits and values.

Different forms of action:

 For example, you might have the opportunity to do a presentation that’s relevant to one of your classes. Your presentation could mean that dozens of classmates and your tutor/teacher all come away knowing fundamental facts about forced marriage – in doing so, you’ve done something to raise awareness and educate your community. 

This could be at an event on a related theme (for example, International Women’s Day), or a general community event. You could speak, or invite a guest speaker on the issue to your community. Your could distribute pamphlets or fundraise. The benefit of working your action into a broader event is that you can capture an audience who might not otherwise engage on this issue.

This means that your event and your theme is centre of attention – although it might require more effort to bring together an audience than it would for an already established community event. This could be a free event with the purpose of raising awareness, or you could also potentially turn it into a fundraiser. 

Whether your action is in person, online or both, you could gain a bigger audience by contacting your local radio station, newspaper, or other local media. If you want to learn more about how to engage local media, you can check out this resource.

The target could be your local MP, other influential people with a stake in the issue, or to anyone you think would or should listen. Similarly to starting a petition, you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve through your communication. What is the end goal? How can the recipient help make this happen?

Some quick tips:

  • If it’s your local MP, make it clear that they represent you (include your full address)

  • Mention your age

  • Don’t hesitate to follow up with them if you haven’t had a response in two weeks.

This doesn’t work as well with a vague goal (e.g. ‘let’s end forced marriage’), but instead works better with a specific, clear, and actionable goal for change that could be achieved through broader awareness and social pressure. If working online, use the same hashtags with all your content, and feel free to also talk to us, and to cite and/or share our resources.

Set up a fundraiser

Think about the kind of event or challenge that would resonate with your community. In creating a fundraiser, you need to decide on two major questions: how do you raise the money, and for whom?

For example, you might do some digging on services around forced marriage in your area, and discover that there’s a local service in need of funding. You could engage with them and tell them about your plan – they may be able to help you with your efforts.

If you’re linking your fundraising to a particular theme, or international day, this might help determine where your fundraising goes. For example, does your campaign have a particular focus on LGBTIQ youth? You can look for services that fit with your focus.

Remember: think about the kind of event, action or challenge you could enjoy doing.

How do you raise money?

Would you look for people to sponsor your individual actions, such as running a half-marathon? Or through a broader group event, where for example each attendee makes a donation instead of buying a ticket?

Remember that you can use the Community Mindmap to brainstorm what mode of fundraising could work best for your intended audience. Importantly, also think about what you’re interested in doing.

Who do you raise funds for?

Is it at a local, national or international level? When your efforts are raising money for an organisation, it’s worth being selective about your chosen cause. If you’re unsure or looking for guidance, you can:

- ask for advice from experts in the area

- look at the organisation or service’s annual report (if any)

- and/or speak to someone directly in the organisation to find out about their work, if they have any specific funding needs, etc.

6. Sharpen your message

Whether you’re working alone, or you are working alongside peers, mentors or other community members: it’s time to think about how you will communicate your message, and get people on board. It all comes down to answering three simple questions for your chosen community:

What is the issue?

Why should they care?

And what can they do about it?

‘What can they do about it’ is also known as a ‘call-to-action’. The community you’re speaking to should know clearly what it is that you’re asking them to do. This should be something achievable, and concrete: for example, instead of asking them generally to ‘spread awareness about forced marriage’, you could ask them to ‘tell three people you know three key facts about forced marriage’.

When deciding on your message and call-to-action, always keep in mind who you are speaking to, and what they value and respect. This is important, because if what you suggest appears to go against an audience’s values or how they see themselves, they are unlikely to engage. It’s important to communicate using your shared values and common ground.

While you’re brainstorming, don’t hesitate to run your ideas by your friends, family or others. They can give you helpful feedback: is your message clear and convincing? Does your idea and method for raising awareness sound achievable, and engaging? Don’t be afraid of getting feedback and reworking your ideas a little – it’s normal for a project like this to be a learning experience, and for it to go through different stages of growth.

Steps 5, 6 and 7 can be done in a different order, or you can work on them at the same time.

For example, if you have a strong idea of who you should talk to for support, but a less clear idea of what your action could look like, you might find it more natural to start with ‘Step 7: Find your supporters’ before taking on Steps 5 and 6.

7. Find your supporters

Identify who you need to talk to. This step could happen at the same time as Step 4, while you’re still brainstorming and looking for inspiration. Now that you’re forming ideas of what you want to say, to whom, and how, consider:

• Who are key people who have the power to help?

• Who seems like they are involved in this issue, or would care about it?

These might include people that you might want to ensure are on your side, or whose mind you need to change in order to make progress. These can include people in positions of power or authority (e.g. your employer, your school’s headteacher, a politician, your local council). They could also include people who you know would probably care as much as you do – like your peers, people impacted by the issue, and/or a community action group with the same or a similar interest.

What do you need them to do, and how can you convince them to do it?

Consider the influence and impact level of the supporters you approach:

Target influence level: The difficult or easy scale is based on how likely it is for you to change their mind.

Target impact level: The high or low scale is based on how much power they have to help you achieve your vision

Difficult to influence


Low impact:

Remember these people in case they become easy to influence or more powerful in the future but don’t focus on them for now.

Difficult to influence


High impact:

Reach out to these people and try to find ways to get their attention but keep in mind it may not be easy.

Easy to influence


Low impact:

Get in touch with these people right away. They may be able to help you reach your targets or give you important information for your campaign.

Easy to influence


High impact:

Focus on these people! They are your main targets.

Also think about who can help you. Maybe there are people who can advise you on how to do what you want to do – maybe they have run a similar campaign or event to what you would like to do, but a different area. Maybe they are extremely familiar with and/or influential in your chosen community: they know how to draw people’s attention, or how to get things done in that space. Or maybe if you are running a fundraiser or event, they are glad to donate some of their products, space, or time to help you make it happen. There is no harm in asking for a meeting, or for advice or help – usually the worst that can happen is someone says no.

8. Use our free resources!

You can use our resources to help you raise awareness and support those at risk.

Anti-Slavery Australia has developed short animations showing real examples of what different forms of modern slavery look like in Australia today, like Lina’s Story. Using a video like this can be a good way to show an audience what the reality of forced marriage looks like. Watch the video about Lina’s story.

Our Speak Now Youth Ambassadors have created a video helping people to know how to support a friend affected by forced marriage, featured in Section One. Watch the video.

We also supply free educational resources, including posters on your rights around marriage, and showing what community pressures look like. Access our resource library.

Remember, you can always reach out and ask for our advice. You can email us at ASAresearch@uts.edu.au.

9. Stay safe

Unfortunately, starting conversations on a topic like forced marriage can occasionally prompt negative or unwanted attention. It’s important to be mindful of your safety, on- and offline.


  • Protect your personal information, and that of others. Your computer, phone, and any documents with sensitive information (like contact lists) should be password-protected.

  • Don’t include personal information (e.g. mobile number, home address, school, place of work) on your social media accounts.

  • Be mindful about where and how often you share your location on social media.

  • If need be, you can report online abuse with the national online safety service, eSafety. They guide you through collecting online evidence, and provide pathways to counselling: https://www.esafety.gov.au/report


  • When meeting with anyone for the first time, meet them in a public place. Tell someone you trust who you are meeting, where, and how long you expect the meeting to last. Other things you can consider are bringing someone else along, and/or having someone check in on you or pick you up.

  • If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, leave – even if you have to pretend an emergency has come up, or even if you’re worried it seems rude.

Things to consider before sharing your story

Some people who speak out against forced marriage are impacted themselves – maybe they have experienced it, been at risk, or they have known someone who is. They may still be experiencing these pressures. For those affected by traumatic events, storytelling can be empowering when done in the right way.

However, it is possible to find the experience of sharing your story to be re-traumatising. If forced marriage is a part of your personal story, we encourage you to think carefully before sharing. You may wish to speak to a counsellor specialising in forced marriage while making your decision. You are welcome to get in touch with My Blue Sky so that we can refer you to a service that can help.


  • Do you feel comfortable, safe, and empowered to share your story now?

  • Do you think you could be unsafe in any way by sharing your story? Could there be any safety risk to you in sharing this?

  • Recognise that if you share your story, it can be difficult to take it back (particularly in the online world).

Three key questions before sharing your story

If you want to share your experience, you must find your ‘why’. That is to say, be sure that you have a clear purpose for why you’re sharing your story – one that is important to you. Nobody else can decide this for you. This knowledge will be what drives you, empowers you, and provides you with armour for if anything negative or challenging were to happen.

Engaging in advocacy through sharing what was likely a traumatic experience can be empowering, and many people want to use their experience to create positive change in the world. However, even when you know yourself best, it might be difficult to tell if you’re truly ready. You might believe you’re ready, and may seem ready to others; but sometimes this can change over time. Be ready to forgive yourself if you decide at some point that you would rather not share your story. Do what you feel safe to do, engage on this issue in a way that feels safe for you (if at all). Look out for your own best interests.

It’s important to be mindful of how you’re feeling, and to find a safe space where you can air any doubts, questions or worries along the way. Have someone you can regularly check in and debrief with. This good be a loved one, like a good friend; a professional, like a counsellor; or both. You are welcome to reach out to My Blue Sky for referrals.   

10. Remember your ‘why’

It can feel intimidating to do something like this, or to even think about doing it. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Remind yourself at each step along the way why you’re doing it. This will be your source of energy and inspiration, especially for if/when you come up against any hurdles.

  • Try to find a few like-minded people to help and join you along the way.

  • Be realistic about what you can achieve, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Consider how you’re defining success, and whether that standard is realistic.

  • Remember, if you can get just one more person to know what forced marriage is and how to get help, then you have already made a positive impact on your community.

And remember…


Putting these steps into action? Get in touch with us at Anti-Slavery Australia

Whatever you decide to do, we would love for you to let us know! We can also see if we can help in any way. We welcome you to reach out and talk to us about what you’re doing at any time, at ASAResearch@uts.edu.au.

You can also patch us into the conversation with these hashtags: #speaknow, #mbsspeaknow, more?

Here are some topic-themed hashtags: #modernslavery, #forcedmarriage, #genderbasedviolence

And some positive hashtags: #endmodernslavery, #notabride, #mbsspeaknow, #humanrights, #consentmatters

Instagram: myblueskyfuture and antislaveryoz

Twitter handle: @AntislaveryOz

Facebook: MyBlueSkyFuture and AntiSlaveryOz

Explore our Toolkit, and find out how you can make a difference.

Section One: How to support a friend

Section Two: The facts and the myths

Section Four: Responding to prejudice and racism

Examples of awareness-raising

Human Rights Calendar