WOMEN OF CHARACTER

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by Sabrina Grementieri

On Saturday 25th February in Imola two different but complementary events took place, both organised by EWWA in collaboration with the Imola City Council, San Domenico Museum, the municipal library, Legacoop, and Corso Bacchilega, the cooperative of journalists.

1The overall theme of ‘Towards freedom and redemption: breaking economic dependence’ was discussed during the morning in ‘Rediscovering independence: from domestic finances to micro-credit’ and, in the afternoon in ‘Get out of the nightmare: a path of liberation and redemption.’ Violence and abuse against women was discussed as well as the resources and tools—and above all, information, knowledge and training—to help the victims, but not only, to confront and deal with this ordeal. In the morning—in a room of the municipal library—the Councillor for Equal Opportunities from the City Council of Imola, Elisabetta Marchetti, praised EWWA for the work it is doing and said that other such initiatives will be organized in Imola in the future. She also specifically addressed the issue of economic violence, which is subtle and difficult to flush out and sees women ousted from the financial management of the family.

2Sabrina Grementieri recalled the aims of EWWA, particularly in the field of communication, underlining also that economic dependence is a subject that is not dealt with enough and is often unknown. She also announced other future association meetings closer to the subject of writing, aimed at the growth of the association’s members. With the collaboration of Lara Alps from Corso Bacchilega (who, among other things reminded us that every two days a woman is seen for domestic violence in the emergency room in Imola), the meeting then presented two tools that already exist that can help women (and others) in difficulty deal with economic hardship: Banca Popolare Etica and PerMicro. Gian Paolo Commissari spoke of the Banca Etica, this “strange” bank that places a cultural objective first and then, but only then, an economic objective: money as a tool and not an end. Here is a bank that does not seek profit but, in a transparent and simple way, parity between costs and revenues, and with the help of volunteer members, assists customers to assess their situation and choose the best types of financing. The bank supports selected clients to be entrepreneurs, offering serious possibilities of success. A large proportion of funds are assigned to associations, particularly non-profit, social cooperatives and NGOs.

3There are many women, despite the economic crisis and situations of divorce and unemployment, who attempt to establish self-employment. Here microcredit can help: Martina Benedetti of PerMicro has worked for years in this sector trying to create jobs using these small investments, with an eye to a sustainable cost-revenues ratio. PerMicro also provides ancillary services to credit for people with a good business idea or a person with temporary employment problems, such as analysis of the household budget or planning of a possible business. PerMicro also provides loans to families for basic needs. Training is offered to divorced women and others to help open a business or to be able to find alternative solutions. Information and knowledge—mentioned Sabrina Grementieri in concluding the morning session— are critical, not only to make people aware of these options but also to help deal with realistic situations that arise. The afternoon event was held in the auditorium of San Domenico, with Sabrina Grementieri who began with the concepts of information and communication before presenting the speakers: Alessandra David from Trama di Terre, Carmen La Rocca of PerLeDonne, and Alessia Sorgato, criminal lawyer specialized in the defence of women. Unfortunately, the hall was not as full as it was in the morning, but it must be said that those who didn’t attend really missed out on a very interesting discussion.

4Alessandra Davide and Carmen La Rocca spoke about their experiences in the two anti-violence centres, where they notice equal numbers of Italian and foreign women. There is a certain differ- ence in the cases of economic violence which—according to Alessandra Davide—are more women from the lower-middle class, while those of ‘higher’ class, unfortunately, tend to fall outside of the safety net more often. The impact of the economic crisis is heavy on those who try to get out of a violent situation. Children in the vast majority of cases are entrusted to the mother but too often difficulties (e.g. fathers who do not respect alimony payments or even disappear) lead women to consider returning. Too often, women—who are already victims of violence—find themselves, together with their children, having to abandon their homes and their belongings, in order to start on the path to protection. Intervention strategies are needed for issues of employment, with paid internships. Then, women can face the problem of finding a home and leaving the safe house. Finally, unfortunately, lengthy court proceedings can lead to exhaustion.

5In general, a person desires a life with a companion, who often—this is the experience reported by Carmen La Rocca—calls for his partner to leave her job and accept economic and psychological dependence. This is when consequences often arise: to this first form of subtle violence others are added which lead to situations of crisis. Attention must be placed on this cultural environment in order to avoid emergencies. Economic and psychological dependence is widespread and knowledge and information are required to break the cycle.

6Lawyer Alessia Sorgato devoted much of her very interesting talk to knowledge and information. She spoke about her long experience defending women, both Italian and foreign, who have suffered violence, experience that has also led her to write several books on the subject and to draw up a sort of “instruction manual”, to dispel some incorrect clichés that haunt women. For example, the fear that a judge might take away their children or (in the case of a foreigner) her permission to stay but the opposite is actually true. Furthermore, she stressed that the Italian penal code is old (dating back to the 1930’s) and doesn’t provide for a range of crimes. For example, the crime of violence exists only in private and sexual terms, while all other types of violence perpetrated against women are seen as cases of abuse. She went on to mention a project to provide for compatibility between the Koran and the Italian penal code, and the need to address, also psychologically, access to hospital emergency rooms with a ‘code pink’ in triage that corresponds to ‘code red’, enabling those who suffer violence to speak, perhaps even along with the perpetrator if he’s accompanied the victim, confidentially with doctors and with specialized personnel. It always comes down to the same two words: information and knowledge. And at the Imola workshop they were addressed in depth and with clarity. EWWA wishes to thank all the agencies and speakers involved in the event.

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