Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where Does Change Start

Yesterday my executive director and I went to a meeting of local community groups* in a nearby area. We were invited by the groups to hear about their work and to request our assistance with mobilizing their community to prevent violence in the home. These group members are all part of our We Can Campaign, which registers and supports local changemakers in various communities who agree to take a public stand against domestic violence and to influence their social networks to do the same. It's a grass-roots program to create a social movement toward change.

The group was saying that they are having trouble getting the word about the We Can Campaign out into their community because they don't have funds to hold community gatherings. My organization's executive director asked them about the messages toward violence in their homes. Do their children, wives, husbands, friends, etc. know about violence? Can they recognize it in the community? Inevitably most of them said no. The ED encouraged the community members to start with their own homes. It takes no money to teach our children, talk with our spouses, engage our friends and coworkers. It's a simple, yet complex way to get the word out and to start shifting the social paradigm that allows violence to continue in our communities.

It made me think if I've had a discussion lately with my family and friends about violence? If I had a child who saw bullying in school or was hit by a teacher would he/she come home and tell me he/she saw violence in school? If a friend of mine was talking about hiding money from his/her spouse, would I talk with him/her about the use of economic influence over their partner? There are so many discussions that need to happen every day in order to change these intrenched behaviors.

* These kinds of community groups are really common in this part of the world. Communities exist to help and support one another. People in this area often form communal groups/coops based on their work (for example, a farming cooperative). That group may be a part of a larger group of groups that support each other and lends help in larger community issues. It's a systemic way to ensure that when someone or some community is in need, everyone will have the support they need. This is a very effective way of helping one another in a world where structured support such as government or charitable assistance, bank support, etc. are ineffective.

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