Starting with an Idea
Ilia was always drawn to women who experience domestic violence and have no one to share it with, as she it knew from a very young age. “Many women in my hometown (…) have been victims of domestic violence. Most of these women have chosen – if we can even talk about choice – not to speak, thus remaining silent on that matter,“ she said. As Ilia emphasized, many victims of domestic violence are mostly uninformed about their rights, their possibilities and support-structures on their way out. This seems even more essential in a rural area, with little to no infrastructure for those women to rely on. In her Action Project, Ilia turned her personal experience into activism for female empowerment where it is needed the most.
From Vision to Action
With this in mind, Ilia organized an educational workshop open to women from the town of Aliartos in the North-West of the capital Athens. Besides information on psychological help and legal advice, she wanted to create a safe environment for the participants to share their stories about domestic violence in their own community and family history.
Domestic violence thrives only in silence and hence information and communication are the keys to female empowerment and action.
Finally, a group of eleven women came together to participate in the workshop in Aliartos, in the Center of the Coalition of Women. After Ilia gave brief introduction, she opened the discussion for the participants’ personal knowledge on women’s rights and domestic violence by posing some crucial questions. It was the first time for some participants that they openly talked about this sensitive issue and their feelings to it.
Most recognizable was the contribution of a former victim of domestic violence, Sofia. Sofia managed to escape her abusive husband and rebuild her life out of the ruins of her marriage. Today, Sofia’s passion is the empowerment of women in similar situations by talking publicly about her experience and giving advice and companionship. Sofia talked about her experience of having no financial resources or support from relatives and how she coped with the situation.
Sofia finished her talk by saying: “If you are determined to claim the respect your soul and body deserve, then you can achieve anything.“ With these words, Sofia became more than a source of information, but an important role model for the women to relate to.
If you are determined to claim the respect your soul and body deserve, then you can achieve anything. (Sofia)
Ilia created an important and engaging experience. “The workshop helped to break the silence on the issue of domestic abuse, as some women even dared to share some personal stories, while most of them looked thoughtful, as if they had their own personal moments of reflection. Two women actually approached me and told me that they became aware about things that they had never thought about,“ Ilia said. It is her hope that the women who participated will spread their thoughts and findings in their own communities.
Thanks to everyone who helped to realize the workshop, especially to Sofia and the municipality of Aliartos and Thebes.