A way out of violence: promising practices in Europe to empower women economically

09 Sep 17

WE GO! is an ambitious project willing to strengthen strategies and methodologies to support women undergoing intimate partner violence (IPV) to become economically independent and leave violent relationships.

Indeed economic dependence is among the strongest predictor of a survivor's decision to remain, to leave from or to return to an abusive relationship. Given the various economic factors that contribute to women’s vulnerability to violence and prevent them from seeking help, it is essential for anti-violence centres to provide women with support also on economic related issues. By assisting women to improve their opportunities to achieve and sustain income, anti-violence centres remove one of the greatest barriers that exist for women in order to leave abusive situations.

The project builds on existing experiences implemented by anti-violence centres in the EU and we believe that by promoting the exchange of existing practices and peer learning their interventions can be strengthened.

The starting point of the project was therefore to search for meaningful interventions in the field of economic related issues implemented in Europe by anti-violence centres that could be defined as “promising practices”, to allow reflection and exchanges among practitioners. The criteria for the selection of the practices analysed were partly adapted from those defined by the European Institute for gender Equality (EIGE)* and partly elaborated according to the specific needs of the WE GO! project.

The 5 general criteria adapted from EIGE’s methodology refer to practices that (1) have been working well (the practice is finished, or at least show substantial achievement attributed to the practice itself); (2) can be replicated elsewhere; (3) are good for learning how to think and act appropriately; (4) are embedded within a wider gender strategy; and that** (5) show effective achievement **in terms of advancement of gender equality and/or reduction of gender inequalities. The 3 additional criteria adopted for the purposes of the project are the following:

1. Women-centred approach

Women’ needs, empowerment, autonomy and self-determination should be at the core of any practice addressing economic empowerment. Women should be provided with a supportive environment that treats them with dignity, respect and sensitivity, and supports them to regain control of their lives, to help them in finding a job in order to have their own money and be able to live decently.

2. Multi-agency approach

The coordination and the integration of several organisations/institutions dealing with intimate partner violence and managing services and/or interventions is essential to increase the opportunity to empower survivors of IPV.

3. Multidimensional approach

Given the multidimensional features of violence against women (and in particular of IPV), as well as the several dimensions involved in economic independence (employment, education, social networks, income, housing, etc.) it is essential that practices aimed at tackling these issues include a multidimensional approach looking at the phenomenon from different perspectives, and trying to provide several and different answers. The graphic below shows the main promising practices identified in this process.

Support services carried out by anti-violence centres and other organisations which collaborate with them include not only emergency assistance for the survivors of violence. They also include services and initiatives meant to address the more complex and long-term needs of both women and their families. These cover different areas: social, employment, financial, legal, child care and housing. All of them can strongly contribute to empower (directly and/or indirectly) women by supporting them to definitively escape the violent situation they live in. In particular, anti-violence centres may provide several areas of support to empower women economically, depending on the context of funding and available resources. It is therefore important to underline that the criteria used for selecting the promising practices presented here are to be considered as a general framework to tend to and do not need to be all fulfilled in order to be defined “promising practice”.

The design of the methodology and the research of promising practices was done by IRS and MIGS, partners of the WE GO! Project