“Empowering Marginalized Women Combating Domestic Violence”

 

Background

HER Fund has begun its new special project “Empowering Marginalised Women Combating Domestic Violence” in early 2016. The project was initiated as a way to raise public awareness of Hong Kong’s domestic violence and to provide more support to marginalised women who are threatened by intimate partner violence. In the first half of 2016, 1601 cases of spouse/cohabitant battering have been reported by the Hong Kong Police Force. Out of these cases, 83.6% of victims are women. Apparently, such numbers cannot accurately depict the reality of the situation.

Domestic violence happens in a space which is regarded as “private”. Many of these incidences take place without our notice because domestic violence is seemingly a private matter and irrelevant to human rights. And in fact, there are numerous domestic violence cases that are not reported by the women who are given abusive treatments by their intimate partners. Many of them do not recognize the treatment as domestic violence. A majority of them are reluctant to report violence incidents to the police as they want to protect themselves, their family members and sustain their relationships. Additionally, the 1601 intimate partner violence cases have in fact missed out many of the marginalized women in Hong Kong, including the sexual minority women, teenage girls, migrant workers and new arrival women. These women’s violent encounters are untold and it is mainly due to their marginalized background where their needs are ignored by the society. Such situations have placed them in an even more vulnerable situation. The Project, therefore, aims to raise the public’s awareness on the overtly under-reported domestic violence in Hong Kong and provide opportunity to marginalized women to voice out their experiences and struggles, as well as to generate support to them.

The Project is funded by the Kering Foundation. Kering Foundation is established by the Kering Group in France. The Group umbrellas 20 luxurious fashion and sports labels in the world. As a philanthropic foundation, Kering aims to alleviate violence against women and support initiatives that work for the same cause. The fund supports three projects that aim to empower local marginalized women to combat violence in intimate relationships. After the processes of application invitation and project selection, three projects from three different organizations have been chosen. The grantee partners come from various backgrounds and their projects serve very different marginalized women in Hong Kong. All participatory in nature, they will work closely with teenage girls, sexual minority women and new immigrant women from the Mainland through means such as casework interventions, artistic therapeutic workshops, participatory action research and community education to empower the women in transforming the culture of domestic violence and advancing their quality of life.

 

A Summary HER Fund X Kering Foundation's Projects

 

Project 1: Supporting Sexual Minority Women Combating Intimate Partner Violence

by Les Corner Empowerment Association (Les Corner)

Sexual minority women experience numerous difficulties in tackling domestic and intimate partner violence. Social causes of sexual minority women are often repressed by their marginalized existence in the mainstream heteronormative culture in the public. Even awareness about the concepts of domestic violence and intimate partner violence among them is very low. Resources and help provided by the public and social sectors are often inadequate and inappropriate for those who do report the violent encounters. The reluctance to “come out” has also confined them to a very small and anonymous social circle, resulting in isolation and inability to reach for help when they face violent situations.

To respond to these situations, Les Corner will address these problems in several ways through an awareness-raising campaign. Les Corner is established to empower Hong Kong sexual minority women and to engage with work that improves their human rights. In this project, Les Corner will invite social workers and legal experts to organize mutual support groups and sharing sessions for their members to help them understand the violence they are facing better and to be equipped with knowledge about what constitutes violence and specific preventive measures. They will also develop a database that documents official and unofficial cases of domestic and intimate partner violence faced by the sexual minority women. It will develop a set of guidelines with procedural and preventive measures for social workers and local sexual minority women to use when they experience domestic violence. Educational sessions on the best practice in handling domestic and intimate partner violence specific to these women will be arranged for professionals, including social workers and the HK Police Force.

Project 2: Free from Violence! by New Arrival Women League

In Hong Kong, the new arrival women from Mainland China are divided into two sub-groups: First, the ones who have been granted residency with the One-way permit; and second, those who only hold the Two-way permit and have to renew their permit once every 90 days as they wait for their application to be processed so that they are entitled to the Hong Kong residency on the grounds of family reunion. While social services are available for the former group when they experience domestic violence because they are granted Hong Kong residency, the latter group of women face an entirely different situation. Since they are not local residents of Hong Kong, they are not covered by welfare and services that protect them from domestic violence, neither are their experience in violence being voiced in the public.

To provide aid to the women holders of the Two-way permits in combating violence from their husbands, the New Arrival Women League will conduct training to the staff, grassroots organizers, and members in the organization to equip them with skills and knowledge on domestic violence intervention. The project will initiate a support group for women facing domestic violence in order to provide space for sharing, learning survival skills and giving direct assistance to them. At the same time, research will be conducted to collect in-depth stories and data from the cases in the support groups and other channels for public education purposes and further advocacy to improve existing service provision so that more support can be provided to them on the grounds of human rights.

Project 3: Walking with Alice by Asbury Methodist Social Service

The concept of gender equality is insufficient in Hong Kong’s gender and sex education. Teenage girls grow up under the influence of gendered, traditional and patriarchal culture. Many of them are dependent on and emotionally attached to their boyfriends. They are not sensitive to the violent treatment imposed by their intimate partners, nor can they easily face and express their experiences to violence and feelings because of these cultural constraints. These negative experiences generate into other forms of problems, such as emotional problems and school-skipping; creating negative tags on the girls and labelling them as ‘problematic’ by society. However, not many youth workers have an adequate understanding of the teenage girls’ struggles so they are unable to formulate effective intervention to provide help.

In this project, Asbury Methodist Social Service will design a series of participatory activities to provide support to the young women. First, they will conduct support groups and art and drama workshops with 8-10 teenage girls to understand the violence they have faced, raise their awareness on the gender-based causes of the violence and increase their assertiveness to protect themselves. The project aims to empower the girls to become an agent of change by forming a core group and formulating their own public education campaign. The campaign will be led by the girls to raise awareness on dating violence in their school and in the public. An action research will also be conducted to document their stories and the problems they are facing. Results will be used as materials for public education.