Lobbying and Community Education
last updated February 1, 2006
A strategy for changing the systems (legal, medical, law enforcement, etc.) that undermine women's safety and batterer accountability may originate from a simple discussion about a common problem. For example, in the United States, the movement to create women's shelters began when small groups of women met to discuss the need for temporary shelter. These groups not only organized shelters, but developed strategies for changing the laws to better meet this need. Women first educated themselves, then sought community support, and eventually approached lawmakers about creating legislation. It was crucial that policymakers were educated about the problem of domestic violence based on the real-life experiences of women. From the identification of a clear need for emergency shelter, women's advocates were able ultimately to achieve the passage of legislation at the state level allocating funds for shelters. Today, over thirty years later, most shelters for battered women and their children in the United States receive a substantial proportion of their funding from state and federal government sources.
Activists in CEE/FSU have made raising awareness about domestic violence issues a priority. The campaign, "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence," held annually between November 25 and December 10, was initiated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership. Women's groups from throughout the region participate in the campaign. A group from Montenegro, the NGO League for Family, developed a campaign message: "Show your strength but not on women." The group focused on delivering the message "in places where men were most likely to receive it," including having basketball and volleyball team participants carry banners with the message around the court before games. From Network Women's Program, Bending the Bow: Targeting Women's Human Rights and Opportunities, Open Society Institute 26-27 (2002).
Lobbying and community education are two possible components of an advocacy strategy. Both can be used effectively by advocates to increase state protection of victims of domestic violence and state efforts to hold batterers accountable. Lobbying can be an effective way to amend laws and introduce new laws needed by women seeking protection from abuse and to ensure that abusers are sanctioned.
While community education does not directly address state obligations with respect to domestic violence, it is an excellent way of starting to change public awareness and perceptions of domestic violence. One reason domestic violence continues is that the community at large has not made it unacceptable. People say that domestic violence is wrong, but often look the other way. A public message about violence prevention is an effective way to change behavior. Grassroots support can also increase the leverage that can be brought to bear on politicians and other government officials.

Men As Peacemakers is a Duluth-based organization which grew out of a grassroots response from the community to a series of domestic murders in the 1990s.  Through a mentoring program, community education in the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, and support for restorative practices to repair the damage caused by crime and violence, MAP works to engage men in taking responsibility to end violence against women.

Jackson Katz is a national educator, lecturer and author who advocates proactive prevention programs against domestic violence.  Focusing primarily on ending male violence against women, Katz’s website contains an extensive list of online resources in gender violence.

The “Silent Witnesses campaign is an exhibition that features red paper silhouettes of women who were killed by their husbands. They stand in a semi-circle and each bears a name, age and how they were killed. Red candles flicker as members of a non-governmental association, Rosa, stand in silent vigil.  First launched in 1990 in Minnesota, the Silent Witnesses campaign is a way of letting the public know what goes on behind many closed doors, and that physical abuse sometimes ends in death. In November of 2005, it was unveiled in the Czech Republic in an effort to pressure the  Parliament to pass legislation allowing a woman to expel the abuser from his own house, giving her time to get out of an abusive relationship. From, Silent Witnesses Bring Awareness of Domestic Violence” Daniela Lazarova, Czech Radio 7, Radio Prague (25 November, 2005).

See the 2008 United Nations expert group report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women" ,section 5, on prevention of violence against women, including awareness-raising and educational curricula. For the Russian version of the recommendations of "Good practices in legislation on violence against women," click here.

For a list of research and reports on lobbying and community education, click here.