Sunday, December 8, 2013

Relationships and Expectations in Ending Violence Against Women

If there are two things my time working with community and international organizations has taught me, they are the importance of relationship and the power of expectations. Time and again I have seen accomplished through relationship what has failed to be done by some of the best resourced and well managed systems known today. There is nothing more fundamental to change than the exchanges that we all are a part of within our own communities. Likewise, I have learned never to underestimate the influence of expectations in creating a reality. Whether it's how I engage with at-risk youth--who I anticipate and believe them to be--or my definition of what is expected of me, these perceptions have time and again been powerful forces in my experiences.

It is a fact incredibly dear to my heart that both of these elements--relationships and expectations--lie at the center of a pressing issue in women's rights--violence against women. The statistics surrounding what percentage of violence against women comes from people they have established relationship with is astounding. In so many instances, violence against women is an issue taking place in the context of relationship--a reality that shows how distorted our views, our expectations, of these relationships can sometimes be. 

Through so many avenues of society, be it education, culture, media, or social interaction, young girls are often taught to believe that violence against women in relationships is normal. This is something that spans cultures in both western and developing nations. When violence towards women in relationships is considered normal, then a call to end this violence is simultaneously a call to redefine what healthy relationships should and do look like. Ending violence against women is a complex issue that touches so many facets, be they economic, educational, or otherwise. But at the heart of the issue, it transforms relationships between people and empowers women in the context of those relationships.

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