WFWF’s International Interprofessional Conference - Advocating for Change
Women for Women France's first international interprofessional conference brought together four leaders from around the world to share and discuss insights, experiences, and successful advocacy strategies in the fight against domestic abuse.
WFWF CEO, Sarah McGrath, who moderated the conference, said: "The purpose is to share with each other, learn from each other. We're all fighting the same battle under different legal systems and different cultural and political landscapes." British-born Australian, Rosie Batty AO, spoke from her perspective as both a survivor and as a domestic violence campaigner. In 2014 she witnessed the killing of her 11-year-old son, Luke, by her ex-partner. She went on to become the leading voice on domestic violence in Australia. Her campaigning was so successful in changing mindsets and laws around domestic violence that it was given a name: The Rosie Batty Effect. When asked about working with lawmakers across the political spectrum, Batty said: “It’s about connecting the heart with the mind. Politicians are humans, everybody is a human being. They have children, they have relationships.” Batty went on to acknowledge, “The reason I had shock value, the reason I was believed, was because I am white. I am privileged. I am a middle class woman. Many women, because of their colour, because of their culture, or where they live, are disadvantaged." Panelist Manasi Pradhan, who is one of the world's leading feminist activists, joined the discussion from India. The organisation she founded, OYSS Women, was instrumental in changing India’'s laws regarding violence against women. Pradhan shared the three key strategies which affected profound change in India. First, was a ‘bottom up method’. “I have consistently engaged with the people and evaluated their needs,” Pradhan said. Secondly, she emphasised the importance of involving the other genders in the movement. “Anything to do with women is not just a women’s problem, it is to do with the entire population”. Finally, Pradhan spoke to the necessity of engaging with governments, other organizations, and community leaders. “It is only when you involve these different stakeholders that any change can be sustainable.” Nathaniel M. Fields, CEO of the Urban Resource Institute (URI), which is the USA's largest trauma-informed service for domestic abuse victims, was also a panelist. Fields identified a little-acknowledged concern that can prevent someone leaving an abusive partner: their pets. "Forty-eight percent of victims said they would not leave because they were afraid of what would happen to their pet. And 71% said their pet had been menaced. This is real for survivors," Fields said. By developing strategic partnerships with animal rights advocacy organisations, the URI founded the People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) accommodation program, and managed to have a unique law passed, the Pets and Women's Safety Act, allowing pets to join people in refuges and be included in protection orders. Recognising the administrative burdens people confronted with domestic violence in France face, gynaecologist-obstetrician Dr Ghada Hatem-Ganzer founded the centre La Maison des Femmes in Saint Denis, near Paris. "The problem for victims is they have to do everything: their health, their kids, their home, find a psychologist, a lawyer, go to the police. It is such a huge job they say 'this is too much for me. I won't move'." The first centre in France to take a holistic approach, La Maison des Femmes provides medical care, psychological and trauma counseling, legal advice, and once a week, a police presence to help those wanting to bring charges or ask for protections. Experts from organisations in over 30 countries joined the conference. Attendees included lawmakers, front line experts in law, medicine, and mental health, as well as other NGOs and organisations working to eliminate gender-based violence. Live interpretation was available to participants from English into French.