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4th World Conference of Women’s Shelters Provides Global Perspective on the Anti-Violence Movement

November 26, 2019

4th World Conference a Call to Action to End Gender-Based Violence on a Global Scale

With more than 1,400 attendees representing 120 countries, the 4th World Conference of Women’s Shelters (WCWS) was a call to action to end gender-based violence on a global scale. The conference was hosted by the Garden of Hope Foundation in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from November 5-8, 2019. The conference is also an event of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS), which is a global coalition to unite anti-violence organizations. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) was honored to both present and participate in the 4th WCWS as part of the U.S. delegation. 

Photo of the conference attendees taken from the stage
The conference opening ceremonies bought together local artists and activists to tell the story of Taiwan’s work to end violence against women. Cheers filled the room when local government officials announced their pride in being the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in May of this year. Those cheers represented a running thread throughout the conference – that while each of us may have been there as a representative of an anti-violence organization, our work is not complete without learning more about the many social justice movements that intersect with our cause.

From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, every survivor has a unique story and lived experience. This global convening provided the unique opportunity to get an international perspective about survivors’ experiences. With this expanded knowledge, we can better support each individual survivor and promote effective policies and practices to make a global impact on ending violence.

NNEDV at the 4th WCWS

As the hosts of the 2nd WCWS, NNEDV was honored to return for the 4th WCWS to show our support, to share our expertise and perspective, to learn from our global partners, and to collaborate with advocates so we can better serve and support survivors of gender-based violence. Cindy Southworth, NNEDV Executive Vice President and Interim CEO, and Kaofeng Lee, NNEDV Deputy Director of Safety Net, worked with the conference planning committee in the years leading up to the conference. As a board member of the GNWS, Cindy also served as a representative voice for NNEDV and the organizations we serve in the United States.

“What is unique about this conference is that it brings together frontline shelter workers, the ones who pick up the phone when it rings at 3am and speak directly to victims of domestic violence. Advocates who provide desperately needed, life-saving services, and this conference brings those advocates together” Cindy Southworth said during the opening ceremony press conference, which included speeches from past hosts of the WCWS.

Past conference hosts – The United States (NNEDV), Canada (Women’s Shelters Canada) and the Netherlands (Dutch Foundation of Women’s Shelters) – pose with the 4th World Conference hosts, The Garden of Hope.

We were honored to present at four breakout sessions:
Cindy Southworth, Erica Olsen, Kaofeng Lee, and Toby Shulruff participated in a panel discussion about the development of our Safety Net project and how we’ve worked with several countries to establish sibling projects, including Australia, Ireland, and the Netherlands. We were joined by representatives from each country: Karen Bentley from WESNET (Australia), Lisa Marmion from Safe Ireland (Ireland), and Essa Reijmers from Blijf Groep (Netherlands). We shared the challenges and successes in each country and the distinctive ways that each country approaches addressing technology safety.

In another session, Audace Garnett was joined by ECPAT Taiwan and Facebook to present on the use of technology and how it can be misused by perpetrators to harm children through sex trafficking. Audace discussed Safety Net’s work and what can be done to combat online abuse:

“There is an inherent distrust of adults that exists for young people. As adults, we have to build trust and rapport with them so they would have someone to turn to if they are experiencing tech-facilitated abuse.”

Rachel Gibson and Audace Garnett joined WESNET’s Karen Bentley for an in-depth presentation on technology safety. Topics of discussion included common ways abusers are misusing technology and how to work with survivors to identify and combat technology-facilitated abuse; considerations when using mobile apps for safety planning with survivors; and using technology to improve safety for survivors. Learn more with our Toolkit for Survivors, App Safety Center, and more.

NNEDV’s Safety Net Team poses with other conference presenters before their breakout session.

NNEDV’s Safety Net Team poses with other conference presenters before their breakout session.

Finally, Debbie Fox, Senior Housing Policy & Practice Specialist, presented on our Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium (DVHTAC) successes to a global audience with Peg Hacskaylo from the National Alliance for Safe Housing and Gudrun Burnet from Peabody Housing (United Kingdom). The presentation provided an opportunity for the audience to learn about housing options and innovations for survivors in the U.S. and U.K., as well as illuminate the many housing parallels and challenges facing survivors across the globe.

Debbie Foxx poses with presenters from her breakout session.

Debbie Fox poses with presenters from her breakout session.

World Conference Highlights

The 4th WCWS brought in notable speakers and committed activists from around the world.

Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) spoke at the opening ceremonies about the work Taiwan has done to increase survivor safety while acknowledging that all countries, no matter how progressive, have a long road ahead in ending violence against women and children.

Yalitza Aparicio Martinez, the first indigenous woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, kicked off the second day of the conference with a rousing speech about the power of art and activism to transcend the limitations that society has placed on us. She had spent a lifetime being told what she couldn’t do as a woman, as an indigenous person, and she is using her global platform to call for equality, as “violence [against women and girls] is the cause and consequence of gender inequality.”

World-renowned author and playwright, Eve Ensler, delivered the closing keynote during which she called for all of us to expand our social services into social justice. She reminded us that, “We, the millions of us who have survived, have turned our pain into power!” Her call-to-action brought together the disparate threads of art, activism, policy, and empowerment that had been discussed over the course of the conference and served as a rallying cry as participants departed.

Kaofeng Lee joins President Tsai Ing-wen, Garden of Hope CEO, Chi Hui-Jung, and other members of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters conference planning committee for a group photo during the opening ceremony.

Kaofeng Lee joins President Tsai Ing-wen, Garden of Hope CEO, Chi Hui-Jung, and other members of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters conference planning committee for a group photo during the opening ceremony.

 
Impact and Solidarity Around the World

All of us hope to bring the best practices, strengthened relationships, and shared knowledge back to our communities to improve the lives of survivors. All of us know that in doing so, we are not only supporting individuals and families but are part of a global tapestry of action that is working to build a world where our work is no longer necessary.

The 4th WCWS ended with every attendee on their feet, dancing together in celebration of our courage to stare down global violence against women and make a difference.

“The solidarity we have built will last a lifetime,” said conference chair Hui-Jin Chi, of the Garden of Hope Foundation, in her closing speech. “We are proud and honored to stand in solidarity with each leader, advocate, activist, and organization in the global movement to end gender-based violence.