A movement masterclass with Women’s Aid

Amidst the sea of challenges facing survivors of domestic abuse emerges a scheme that aims to break the silence around violence against women. WomensAid’s new scheme ‘Ask me’ trains up people within communities to become community ambassadors. They’ll signpost survivors to the relevant advice and support centres, and in the long term their attitudes towards breaking the taboo of domestic violence will dispel myths and seep into the community consciousness.

I caught up with Laura Dix, the AskMe coordinator of the pilot scheme, about how WomensAid approach has contributed to the movement against domestic abuse.

Know your people

LD: Our new approach at WomensAid ‘change that lasts’ is what drives the thinking behind our AskMe scheme. Research showed that communities are the first people to know about domestic abuse, but women are rarely listened to. Typically, survivors have to ask for help for up to 5 times before they get the help they need. That’s why AskMe goes to the very people who will be the first to know if someone is experiencing domestic abuse. AskMe arms communities with knowledge and understanding, so that survivors don’t always feel like the burden’s on them to convince people about their situation.

SCA:  Knowing your people is at the heart of building a strong movement, and it’s the core element of the movement building canvas. Here, WomensAid have identified that their people are, alongside female survivors of domestic abuse, those who have the power to identify a victim of domestic abuse. Rooted in solid research, WomenAid have backed their strategy with evidence that people within communities are often the first to know about abuse. WomenAid clarified who their movement members were from the onset, which allowed them to innovate on a scheme that would reach the heart of the community.

Smooth out your journey

LD: There was a lot of publicity for this scheme. So once people had seen our adverts, the articles in major newspapers or been approached by their local domestic abuse services, we took them on a journey. Firstly, they’d get in touch with me, and I would send them over an ‘expression of interest form’ which would ask basic questions such as their motivations, what community spaces they would reach. I’d also give them some more information about the role before booking them onto a two day training course on how you might respond to someone who is in an abusive situation.

SCA: A key element of building a movement that WomenAid have tapped into is offering a meaningful journey to its movement members. From the second the scheme hit the press, WomenAid had a carefully planned out journey for anyone that wanted to partake in the movement. The programme has been officially underway for just over 2 months, and already they have 46 ambassadors in Brighton and London. The journey is simple yet effective: sign up, attend a training session and you’re officially an AskMe ambassador. It provides movement members with a sense of security, but also with the space to innovate themselves, which leads onto our final point…

Allow the movement to carry itself

LD: ‘This scheme is flexible. It’s got a real bottom-up approach. Ambassadors will be trained and will be able to create safe spaces for survivors and we’ll be asking them how they want to take this forward. We’ll be creating peer networks so that ambassadors can stay in touch and discuss their experiences, so that the scheme can not only be continually evolving, but also self-sustaining’.

SCA: This is where the power of the sustainable movement lies. Threaded through the whole of the strategy of this scheme is the question of how this movement can remain self-sustaining years down the line. WomensAid are listening to their movement members, they’re creating peer networks that allow movement members to engage with one another, so that ultimately a self-sufficient network of ambassadors training other ambassadors is created so that communities are equipped with the knowledge to break the taboo of domestic violence.

This scheme is innovative, self-sustaining and powerful. Every element of the Movement Building Canvas can be seen in the intricacies of the movement – from the core of the movement identity to right through to the movement enablers, WomenAid are sharing in the movement against domestic abuse by creating a powerful peer-to-peer network.

Start mapping out your movement by downloading the Movement Building Canvas here.