Violence against women, in its various forms, is endemic in all communities and countries around the world, cutting across class, race, age, religious and national boundaries. According to the United Nations Declaration, violence against women includes “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life (UN 1993)”. The most common type of violence against women worldwide is ‘domestic violence’ – the physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse of women by their intimate partners or ex-partners (Heise et al., 1999). There are other forms of violence such as dowry harassment and wife inheritance, which are linked to traditional or customary practices and are limited to specific regions and communities.
(Putting Women First: Ethical & Safety Recommendations for research on Domestic Violence Against Women, World Health Organisation).
Relevant downloads on this site
Presentation on domestic violence and how it is dealt within a local authority
Presentation on recognising violence in women’s lives
Exercise on understanding risks and resilience for young women
Some other activities for introducing the topic of violence and safety:
- Agony Aunt exercise:
Group write down different situations about violence against women (imaginary or real) – put into a container.
Individuals pick out one of the situations and the group discuss and try to come up with solutions, tips and advice.
- Media exercise:
Before the session ask the young women to bring in magazines and newspapers that they have at home. Spend time as a group going through all the information, cutting out any articles and images depicting violence against women. Each article can then be pasted onto a sheet of flipchart and each individual takes the flip chart pen and writes words or statements about how that article makes them feel. Everyone is encouraged to read all the comments and discuss issues which have arisen.
- Sisters’ Safety!
One way of looking at safety if your budget allows -is to buy in the time of a women’s self defence instructor, she will run sessions on self-defence for the group. These are always very practical and good fun, the women come away with real techniques on what to do if…
- Self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy.
In order to help young women feel confident in every aspect of their lives, sessions around assertiveness would be helpful. There are many exercises and activities already designed to help work through these issues. See
Split the group into two smaller groups. One group is asked to draw the figure of a young (age up to 25) woman on a flipchart; the other group draw a figure of an older woman. The task for each group is to write around their women the types of violence that she may experience. Bring the two groups together and compare their flipcharts. Draw out any similarities and differences that younger and older women may experience.
Design a poster, leaflets, credit card leaflet, or streetwise girrrl pack etc…with their safety tips for women who live in their area.
- Types of abuse
On flipchart paper write out the various headings and ask the group to shout out what they think is involved in that particular type of abuse.
Physical abuse – slapping, pushing, hitting, kicking, biting, etc.
Emotional abuse – name-calling, putting down, insults, etc.
Sexual abuse – being forced into sexual contact, etc
Threats – “If you …..…. I’ll kill you!”, etc.
Intimidation – gestures, looks, smashing things, etc.
Isolation – being kept from seeing or talking to others, not allowed to go out, etc.
Economic – being given an allowance, not allowed to have a job, etc.
These are just some of the things that other young women have come up with; the group you are working with may have others. Once they have a list under each heading, work through each area of abuse and try to come up with suggestions, tips and advice.
Other external resources:
This dating website has a good guide to personal safety that can be adapted to use with young people
This is abuse – teen abuse
Feminist Legal Organisation guide to issues of peer-on-peer abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation of young people
GAP work against gender related violence – a free downloadable resource with activities, scenarios, thinking points, legal pointers and a resource directory on thinking about how practitioners can develop and design activities.