The Signal for Help

Canadian Women’s Foundation
Paulette Senior, CEO and President (pictured)
Nominated by: Community Foundations of Canada
2023 | Ontario

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About the Innovation

In 2020, the Canadian Women’s Foundation launched the Signal for Help to help abuse survivors in the pandemic’s spike of gendered violence. The hand gesture innovation is simple – tuck the thumb into the palm and cover the thumb with fingers to ask for help without leaving a digital trace. Used in over 45 countries and shared virally around the world, it has saved lives and continues to be used. In Canada, 41% of people know about the signal and 9% have used it or seen it used. To support the use of the signal, the CWF developed Signal for Help Responder digital learning tools, as research shows that many people do not have the confidence and knowledge to offer abuse survivors non-judgemental support.

About the Innovators

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a national leader in the movement for gender equality and justice in Canada. Through funding, research, advocacy, and knowledge sharing, they work to achieve systemic change. They support women, girls, and gender-diverse people to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. Since 1991, the Foundation’s partners and donors have contributed more than $185 million to fund over 3,000 life-transforming programs throughout the country. The Canadian Women’s Foundation builds a gender equal Canada by: transforming lives with community-based programs in every province and territory; improving communities by strengthening the organizations and the groups that help those who need it most; and changing systems by challenging biases, building awareness, and advocating for policies and practices that make life better for everyone impacted by gender injustice. Their mission is critical. Every 6 days, a woman in Canada is killed by their intimate partner, 1 in 4 women will face violence before reaching age 50, and marginalized women and gender-diverse people including those who are Indigenous, migrant, or living with disabilities face elevated risks. In the COVID-19 pandemic, femicide, family violence, and sexual assault increased significantly.


graphic for the sign for help