In mid-January, I attended the CA Women’s Policy Summit and the connected Pathways to Policy Institute in Sacramento, California. I’ve written before about policy as an important component of comprehensive prevention work, and I was pleased that this summit included prevention. Moreover, especially given the theme of the conference, “Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth, and Power,” the conference made me think about the importance of gender equity, and the role of women, in sexual and domestic violence prevention work.
It all started when I attended a panel on health disparities where panelists were addressing the question, “What do we do about gender being overlooked?” Overwhelmingly, as was the theme of the summit, the answers revolved around women’s power, women’s agency, and women’s leadership. “Empower us as women to take care of our problems,” one panelist said, “We know what works. We have generations of experience.”
Sometimes I fear that we’ve forgotten about the power of women as change agents. Sure, there are high profile books and projects aimed at empowering women and girls as solutions to social problems, but really, how often do we intentionally invest in women’s leadership as a violence prevention strategy (particularly at the local level)? I’m not talking about simply building boundaries and self-esteem, I’m talking about fostering women as agents of change and promoting gender equity. If we believe that oppression lies at the root of sexual and domestic violence, then anti-oppression work is anti-violence work, and women and girls certainly have a vital role to play.
And when we do invest in women, whose leadership do we foster? Is it always those with priviledge, those who are already at the table? These are important questions to ask, especially when we put social justice at the center of our prevention work.
The CA Women’s Policy Summit covered issues ranging from women economic empowerment, to paid family leave, to Title IX and more. All of these issues, I would argue, connect to our sexual and domestic violence prevention work because they reflect and shape the culture that defines women’s experiences, including violence. Let’s remember that changing the world for women, and trusting in women’s power to make change, is a key component of our work.
Share your thoughts and sexual and domestic violence prevention programs that promote women’s leadership and gender equity in the comments section below!