The Power of Connection by Christine Jaworsky
In April and June, I attended and presented at the sixth and seventh Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence, held in Manila, Philippines and Bogotá, Colombia. These Institutes, funded by the Avon Foundation for Women and held around the world, convene people who work with and protect victims of domestic and gender violence and sexual assault.
The Institutes bring together people including police officers who may serve as a victim’s first point of contact after being violated, advocates who may provide support for a victim during a hospital visit or in a local shelter, and prosecutors and judges who are involved with presenting and ruling on these cases, which often involve children and other bystanders. Each participant cares about preventing and responding appropriately to violence against women, but the reality is, even people with common goals approach situations differently. Avon’s main goal in funding Justice Institutes is to convene participants to be resources for each other and to discuss how, at all stages of a victim’s experience, we remain laser-focused on his or her needs at the center of all that we do.
For me, the most engaging part of every Justice Institute I’ve attended is watching and listening to the participants as they begin to consider a victim’s experience with a new point of view. In both Manila and Bogotá, the participants had heated, fervent conversations. They were eager to share their own point of view but also willing to listen to someone else’s.
Interspersed with small and large group discussions, the Institutes also employ a series of role plays that prompt participants to put themselves in the victim’s position — and the perspective shift is extraordinary. I’ve been fortunate to work on Avon’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiatives for more than 8 years, and I am amazed how this kind of engagement continues to have a powerful effect on me. These are very serious conversations which are not taken lightly.
Further, I feel admiration for the work and the collaborations that will continue to transpire as a result of the Avon-funded Justice Institutes long after they have taken place. I’m also extremely proud to work for a company whose philanthropic mission is to end domestic and gender violence. Think about how many other corporate philanthropy mission areas are focused on this important cause? Perhaps, a handful. However, there is no doubt that Avon is a leader, for over 130 years.
The Justice Institutes were launched in March, 2014, and they represent a terrific public-private partnership among Avon and Avon Foundation for Women, Vital Voices Global Partnership and the U.S. Department of State. We are already planning three additional Justice Institutes: in Mumbai, India, scheduled for early September, and in South Africa and Argentina later this year.
As the company for women, Avon has made it its responsibility to speak out against domestic violence, an issue that is important to women. However, domestic violence isn’t an issue that affects only one group of people. It happens to men and women, people in every country, of every religion and from every income level. It’s not just a women’s issue; it’s a human rights issue. I’m pleased that Avon is taking a stand, and even prouder that I am able to represent these efforts all around the world.