Working for the Ipswich Women’s Centre Against Domestic Violence, whether as a staff member or a volunteer, is a lifestyle choice. All staff and volunteers at IWCADV understand and utilise a feminist framework as the basis of all interaction of service delivery.
The key principles of feminist practice we employ are;
- The role of gender is recognised as a key factor in the oppression of human potential
- Patriarchal assumptions and practices that oppress and disempower women and girls are identified and challenged
- Women's broader experiences are validated and they are seen as individuals not just as wives and mothers or potential wives and mothers
- Difference is celebrated and the uniqueness of the human condition is embraced
- Egalitarian and reciprocal relationships are fostered
The empowerment of women and children is assisted by:
- Working with and not for them
- Encouraging a collaborative relationship with women and children
- Focusing on strengths and not deficits
- Actively supporting and encouraging women and children
A feminist framework
A feminist framework provides for interventions at an individual, service and systemic level. A feminist framework can:
- Assist women and children to identify their strengths and resilience
- Foster egalitarian and reciprocal relationships
- Offer a broad critique of social arrangements for the care of those who are vulnerable in society
- Assist women to find a balance between their rights and the rights and needs of their children
- Provide a sound rationale for political and community activism
(Adapted from Burton (2001).
Application to interpersonal practice
One of the principles of the feminist framework is to assist in the empowerment of women and children by encouraging a collaborative relation- ship with them, rather than a relationship of client and authority figure (Sheafor, 2000).
Practitioners can assist in the empowerment of women and their children in the following ways:
- Encourage women and children to make decisions about their lives, and provide support to them during the decision making process. This can often be extremely difficult for women who may have been dictated to, controlled, manipulated and constantly put down or ridiculed. The same can be said for children who have been told they are useless and have no rights or say in what happens to them.
- It is also important to recognise that many cultures are not focused on the rights of the individual in the same way as the western Anglo culture. For many cultures greater emphasis is placed on the family unit and the community group than on the rights of the individual. It is then difficult for an individual woman to make a decision about her life in isolation, without taking into consideration the best interests of the family unit and the community group.
- It is important for practitioners to discuss these matters openly and without judgment; to recognise the tensions that may be operating for women and children from different cultural backgrounds, and to support women and their children in the decisions they make.
- Focus on a woman or child's strengths, skills and capabilities rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Women and children in domestic violence situations often have low self-esteem or may lack confidence in their abilities.