How can we support more women to stand on their own two feet? When they’ve just left an abusive relationship. For a shelter. That’s surrounded by fences. To keep them safe? That’s the question we started with, 3 months ago, as we got to know 18 women living at
a domestic violence shelter in Apeldoorn. A mid-size city on the edge of the Bible Belt in the East of Holland.
But after more than 100 hours, 17 Big Macs, 10 pizzas, and more fries than we’d like to count, we’re asking a different set of questions. We’re questioning whether standing on your own two feet is a sufficient policy goal. Nearly all of the women we’ve met are still standing. Surprisingly, they haven’t let the trauma or the uncertainty knock them down. And yet standing is not the same as moving forwards. Most of the women we’ve met remain lonely, left out, and on the margins. Despite having up to 8 services in their lives.
Working together with the women, we’ve come up with 20 points of change. Concrete ideas for utilizing women’s natural resources. Their time, their skills, their know-how, plus all of their acquired experience. To re-orient existing shelter services and reshape social worker roles. To revise housing allocation policies and mobilize neighbors. To create new informal supports within and between families. And to change the feedback loops and commissioning processes that perpetuate the status quo.
We’re looking for the bold, the courageous, the curious, and the skeptical who want to help us take these ideas from paper and into practice. Testing and tweaking and learning along the way.
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