Women’s Refuge is more than a service provider/ambulance at the bottom of the cliff – it’s a movement of women passionate about ending domestic violence. There are four corner stone values that every woman who is involved in refuge needs to align herself with:
- Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Parallel devlopment
- Lesbian Visibility
That list sounds so 80/90s feminist to me. Who these days talks about collectivism, or homophobia let alone lesbian visibility? But these values and being together with other women, from really different backgrounds, who share these values, makes refuge the inspirational place it is.
Somehow, despite so much working against it, Refuge has managed to maintain its poltical essence. It’s tough in the face of running an organisation in a fiscally constrained environment especially with an increasing number of women and children needing a safe house or support in the community. The immediate safety of women and children will always trump political advocacy. Yet without the political advocacy we’re reduced to being an arm of the state. I think there are at least a couple of blog topics in the pressure on community based organisations to become arms of the State and the consequences of that. But that’s another topic.
I’m really looking forward to the sesssion tomorrow night. It’s really iluminating to me that most women applying for jobs within Refuge, as paid or unpaid workers, can usually articulate why Te Tiriti might be a cornerstone value, but it’s very rarely that I’ve heard a woman manage to articulate clearly why lesbian visibility should be a core value.
Lesbian Visibility is a value for a few reasons:
- It’s an honouring of the work of the women who started Refuge, many of whom were lesbians.
- Lesbians aren’t likely to access a heterosexist service.Unfortunately violence does exist in some Lesbian relationships and the women who are victims deserve the same right to support and refuge.
- Because as the old quotes goes: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together” (Lila Watson). “No one is free until we’re all free.” (paraphrased)
It’s this last point that really fascinates and inspires me. I’ve led this workshop a few times but I always love it.