With the Ana Bella Foundation, people who have experienced domestic violence become agents of change

Report

Les bénévoles de la Fondation Ana Bella dans un amphithéâtres

Breaking the silence: from victim to survivor.

Worldwide, more than 1 in 3 women suffer physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. In Spain, after having herself found the strength and courage to come out of silence after 11 years of domestic violence, Ana Bella Estévez Jiménez de los Galanes created the Ana Bella Foundation in 2006. For the past 12 years, she has been helping abused women and working to change the way society looks at them. So that these women are no longer seen only as victims but as survivors, to help them rebuild their lives and encourage more and more of them to make their voices heard.

For Ana Bella Estévez Jiménez de los Galanes, changing the way we look at women who are victims of violence, what we show about them in society and in the media is a way to help them speak out. “We have to bear witness not only to what we have endured but also to what happens afterwards. To show those who are still experiencing violence that it is possible to change their lives and find happiness. This is how we will encourage them to come out of silence. “To carry this message of hope, the Ana Bella Foundation is working with both the public authorities and the media.

For example, it advocates for journalists to shine a light not only on women who have been abused but also on abusive and violent men. To bring them to the heart of the matter, to talk about the consequences for them, the sentences they face and to which they are condemned. So that all women know that they are not untouchable and that it is the perpetrators of violence who are at the heart of the problem and not their victims.

Mutual aid: an impact accelerator.

Rencontre entre une bénévole et une femme dans les locaux de la Fondation Ana Bella

In parallel with the work on the perception of this social problem, the Foundation also acts through a network of mutual aid. In 12 years, it has made it possible to support more than 20,000 women. Trained to respond to them, it is the survivors themselves who put their benevolence, time and experience at the service of victims of violence in order to help them get out of it. In addition to meetings, the Foundation uses the telephone, social networks (notably Facebook) and a mobile application that allows contact with the Ana Bella network. In this way, it also reaches women in other Spanish-speaking countries.

The change of perspective instituted by the Ana Bella Foundation also consists of seeing and valuing the determination and perseverance of the survivors. Through a virtuous mechanism, this changes the way they look at themselves but also at others, especially in the professional world. For as long as they are seen only as victims, they face the vicious circle of exclusion: often without professional experience because of the isolation they have experienced, they are offered “invisible” jobs with low responsibilities, low income and no social recognition.

Getting out of the shadows through work

Plusieurs femmes en cercle qui joignent leur main

In order to avoid this phenomenon of double punishment, the Foundation has therefore decided to create in 2011 “The Ana Bella School for the Empowerment of Women”. Here they receive personal and professional training to reveal their full potential and train for sales professions. A choice that is not insignificant because contact with the public allows them to regain self-confidence, especially in their relationship with others. Thanks to partnerships with major retail brands in particular, they then have access to “springboard” jobs.

More than 1,600 women have already benefited from this programme and have brought their skills to these brands as ambassadors, for example to run their promotional campaigns at points of sale. And the results are spectacular: 97% of them have received an excellent evaluation from their supervisor, they have boosted sales and reduced absenteeism for this type of position from 40% to 2% and turnover from 63% to 2%. After this foot in the door, 30% of them have continued along this path.

A life-changing process

Ana Bella et deux bénévoles de sa fondation

Over the years and thanks to this innovative and comprehensive approach, the Ana Bella Foundation has helped women from all walks of life not only to escape violence but also to rebuild their lives and become agents of change themselves. Like Elisa, who benefited from a “stepping stone” job, then found a long-term position and became director of the “Instituto de la Mujer” (Women’s Institute) in the Spanish region of Extremadura. Or like Gloria, who found the courage to break the silence at the age of 62. At a time when public aid only offered her €356 per month and a passive role in society, she became a brand ambassador for a major retailer.

The first job of her life. The trust she received from the Anna Bella Foundation, the brand and the customers allowed her to believe in herself. Today, she works for her community: she runs the “Volunteers in Action” association that supports isolated elderly people and she has started studying at university. All this because she has been recognized socially.