by April Balzhiser, Guest Writer
Last week I was honored to attend the 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Washington DC presented by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Global Network to End Domestic Violence. My agency, Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet, IL was afforded the opportunity to send myself and another delegate thanks to the Office on Violence Against Women, whom awarded us with grant money to provide transitional housing to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Where to even begin? There is no place other than Disney World perhaps where this many people join together for one purpose – and this purpose is not that of Mickey Mouse. It’s about speaking out, joining together, and moving forward to end violence against women.
From workshop to workshop, I came out of each one a little more inspired and rejuvenated. Almost every hour of the day there were multiple workshops going on simultaneously. Most hours of the day there were ten at one time! Deciding which workshops to go to was a task in itself as each one was presented by fellow advocates sharing their struggles, successes, and innovative ideas.
Nearly 1500 delegates from 100 countries came together three times a day to share about the workshops and hear from leading voices in the movement including the 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton; Lynn Rosenthal & Valerie Jarrett, White House Advisors on Violence Against Women; Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State; Reese Witherspoon, Actress and Global Ambassador for Avon; Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, Crown Princess of Denmark; Susan B. Carbon, Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women; and countless others.
Delegates from high income countries, including myself, paid a higher conference registration fee to allow others to attend the conference on scholarship. Nearly 300 delegates were afforded the opportunity to attend the conference who would otherwise not been able to make the trip half-way across the world.
Through cultural & language differences we all stood together. We closed out the week with a performance by Gloria Gaynor – 1500 delegates from 100 countries with multiple languages all singing one anthem; I Will Survive!
The week was life changing and awe-inspiring. I know that I am taking both my passion and re-charged advocacy practices back to my little piece of the world; imagine 1499 others doing the same! We can and are making a difference.
To my new friends and fellow advocates from all over the world – I will see you in four years!
April Balzhiser works for Guardian Angels Community Services, specifically, Groundworks which assists victims of intimate partner violence.
She was invited to give us her impressions of the World Conference of Women's Shelters