Leadership Development for Immigrant Survivors of Violence
My name is Carmen and on November 2007, I represented Mujeres Unidas y Activas at the conference of the National Network to End Domestic Violence Against Immigrant Women. One of the workshops I participated in was about leadership. As a domestic violence survivor, this workshop is where I discovered the leadership I have within me. This leadership helps me to make changes in my personal life and more easily make decisions so as to not live with violence. Now, I feel a huge commitment to transmitting this leadership to other women who are in situations like what I experienced.
The Immigrant Women's Rights Project recognizes the unique challenges facing immigrant women as they struggle for safety in this country. The program educates women about their rights and develops their leadership so that they can become involved in changing policies that affect them. As emerging leaders, they play a critical role in supporting other women, informing institutions on their needs, demanding accessible services and teaching their peers how to address domestic violence and sexual assault.
Why Should we Develop Women’s Leadership Skills
- Immigrant women who have survived domestic violence have great leadership potential because they overcame numerous barriers to obtain access to services.
- All of these women exhibit great strength of character when they decide to find assistance or to leave a violent home to save themselves and their children.
- All immigrant women, especially those who lack secure immigration status, face numerous barriers to obtain services and to gaining access to the civil and criminal justice systems.
- These women possess strengths, experience, and knowledge that qualify them to advocate for other battered immigrant women.
- They can educate immigrant communities about domestic violence and advocate for changes in system policies and practices because they speak credibly and eloquently about the obstacles they face and how they overcame them.
- Immigrant communities are more likely to trust them than “outsiders” because they have experienced the discrimination and stereotyping that is part of an immigrant’s daily life.
- The best way to create dynamic partnerships among service providers and immigrant communities is to help immigrant women gain the confidence and skills they need to insist that service providers can articulate system problems and help those systems develop appropriate solutions.
Why a Women’s Leadership Group?
Supporting survivors as new leaders through a community-based immigrant women’s group can generate some of the following outcomes:
- Provides support for women by women from their own community
- Raises consciousness of shared experiences
- Sponsors leadership trainings that raise self-esteem and teach skills
- Educates women about their rights and other social and political issues relevant to their lives
- Facilitates identifying the issues and problems affecting battered immigrant women
- Helps women become involved in events and projects to change policies that harm them
- Provides a vehicle for working as equals with institutions and service providers
- Builds healthier and stronger families and communities by encouraging, self-confident women leaders
- The community plays an active role in the prevention and intervention of abuse in the family
- The effective responses to the problem in the home comes from leaders of the same community who have this experience and are based on their own cultural values
- Provides a place to celebrate individual and collective accomplishments
FVPF Publications on Immigrant Women Leadership Development:
Based on the successful FVPF-sponsored pilot projects in El Paso, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa, and Kodiak, Alaska, this workbook provides all the details needed to implement a project in your area.
- Battered immigrant women learn essential leadership skills.
- Service providers learn about issues affecting the women.
- Together, they can create system changes
- Building a cohesive group of women leaders,
- Recruiting service providers and other agencies to participate,
- Organizing and host a forum where the two groups interact equally,
- Creating commitments to make services accessible and non-discriminatory.
- Checklists on setting goals, planning the forum
- Sample sheets on using skits, setting agendas
- Exercises and workshop instructions
- Suggestions from the pilot projects