A Universal Sign for Help, Powered by a Global Network

Signal for Help
A hand signal provides those experiencing violence in home isolation a way to discreetly communicate when they need help.

What is the Signal For Help?  

The Signal for Help, created by The Canadian Women’s Foundation, a WFN member, is a nonverbal hand signal that provides a way to discreetly communicate when someone needs help. 

A Universal Sign for Help 

Local innovations can become global solutions when amplified and supported by a powerful alliance. Intimate partner violence increased in severity during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of increased isolation in quarantine, and increase in the use of video communication, created a critical need for a widely recognized, discrete, way a survivor could reach out for help. During this time, the Canadian Women’s Foundation wanted to do more. Tapping into their trusted relationships with intimate partners violence advocates and providers, they were able to quickly co-create the Signal for Help. However, they knew the signal’s effectiveness was tied to its ability to be recognized, and appropriately acted upon. That’s why they partnered with WFN to help amplify the new tool among our global network of women’s funds and gender equity funders. The signal traveled through the power of women helping women, eventually reaching nearly every country, translated into multiple languages, and is saving lives

Women are changing the world by creating and sharing solutions with each other. The #SignalforHelp campaign offers a new tool for survivors, but it also teaches people who want to help, how to do so in a way that protects the safety and agency of the survivor. #SignalforHelp campaign helps bring gender-based violence out of the shadows. Now more than ever, we have to be vigilant and look out for each other. 

Violence against women is only one part of a web of interconnected issues that prevent us from all being able to be safe and independent. This is why women’s funds matter: Women are changing the world by creating and sharing solutions with each other, fighting for progress through policy and advocacy work to create a world where every person can be safe, happy, and healthy. 

Fighting for a Future Free from Violence  

Women need so much more than a signal to escape intimate partner violence. That’s why women’s foundations are fighting for progress using a variety of tools including policy and advocacy. Together, we’re working to ensure better outcomes for women, children, and families across the globe. 

To truly be free from violence women and girls need supports in place much farther upstream, including: 

  1. Economic mobility. Women need equal pay, a living wage, and leadership roles so we can afford long-term housing and not be reliant on an abuser. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, financial freedom means the ability to be free from abusers. 
  2. Affordable childcare and Universal Pre-K. As many as ⅓ of children are exposed to intimate partner violence. No mother wants that for her child—but she also needs to be able to afford childcare on her own. 
  3. Affordable, quality healthcare. Healing from the physical and emotional trauma of abuse requires access to healthcare, including mental health coverage. 

The #SignalForHelp campaign is just one way in which WFN and our members are promoting justice and equality for women and girls. #SignalForHelp is an example of philanthropy in action and speaks to the importance of women’s and girls’ funds and foundations all over the world. 

The Power of our Global Feminist Network  

Our global network, which includes nearly all 50 US states, Puerto Rico, and 11 countries, is responding to the surge in gender-based violence in ways that are specifically tailored to their communities and in collaboration with trusted partners. That’s why the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a WFN member, launched the #SignalForHelp. Women’s Funding Network supported the launch with resources and information for both US and international partners.  

Local women’s funds and foundations respond quickly to community needs in real time, road test solutions, share them with our network of women all across the world. Together, we fight to create a world where women can be safe, happy, and healthy. 

Help WFN provide powerful support to locally-led, trust-based philanthropy, focused on gender equity and justice.  

Tools and Resources 

A hand signal is a great emergency tool, but it’s not the only one. If you or someone you know needs help, resources are available below. You are not alone.  

National Domestic Violence Hotline 

Futures Without Violence 


Learn more about the Signal For Help from the Canadian Women’s Foundation