“Many NGOs, including ours, try to fix as many things as possible at the same time. But it’s impossible”, says Alexandra from Romanian organization  A.L.E.G. So she tried to focus on one goal instead – which was creating a campaign, connecting survivors of domestic violence with those women who are still struggling to get out of the abusive relationships. The results, achieved with the help of TechSoup Europe trainers, surpassed their expectations.

1 of 3 women in Romania is subjected to physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. The organization called A.L.E.G knows the stories behind these numbers and offers counselling services to the victims. Their staff have 14 years of experience in working with survivors of violence and have received specialized training on the issue of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Recently they started a platform which connects women that are daily subjected to violence with those that managed to overcome the abuse. Before that, they invited women from all around the country to be the part of the Survivors Forum in March 2018, in Bucharest. Now they are extending the program to local communities. But how do they manage to encourage women to share their most intimate and difficult experiences to a wider audience, including those who are still victims of their abusive partners?

Gaining the trust

Alexandra Abrudean from A.L.E.G recalls that the initial idea of how this platform should look like came up during Tech4Stories Workshop. “We got inspired by a story of a Spanish activist, who started a network of women that experienced domestic violence”, says Alexandra. Those survivors who took part in the Forum in March suggested that they also needed a network. That is why A.L.E.G created a secret group on social media channel and a forum on the already existing website. But the TechSoup Workshop helped Alexandra realize that they needed something bigger: a separate website dedicated only to the network.

During the workshop, they were encouraged to do the “mapping”, which is a strategy that helps activists define their target group and identify its fears. They started with a core question: why survivors of gender-based violence don’t advocate for other women to speak out? They agreed on a fact that the most important factor is the mutual trust between the organization and its beneficiaries. “First women who agreed to share their stories with us, were the ones who already knew us – and took part in Survivors’ Forum earlier”, Alexa explains. “It wasn’t easy to convince women to share their testimonials on a video but now I see how new people are describing their experiences in the comments on our Facebook page. So we gained our audience’s trust. Two weeks after launching the website in November, I got a 3-page letter sent to me by a woman who’s willing to join the network”, says Alexa. Simultaneously, they were being encouraged by the trainers from TechSoup to develop more user-friendly solutions for a new website.

Starting a network

The next step was to give people the chance to get involved in the communities, whether they’re specialists, lawyers, doctors or have other resources to offer. Alexa and other activists from A.L.E.G were sure it’s a long-term goal, even more difficult to achieve than getting the testimonials from survivors. It appears they were wrong – people from different fields are now reaching out to their organization to offer their resources and help.

“Each community will have a survivors’ support group, led by a trained psychologist and will be confidential. Online groups using social media are also created to support information sharing and women helping each other. Each support group is going to works under a set of rules focused on confidentiality and personal safety. This will be carefully monitored and guided by A.L.E.G. staff”, Alexa explains.

“I think for us the most important thing we learnt at Tech4Stories workshops was to focus on one field; to make one big decision and stick to that”, she adds.

“Many NGOs, including ours, try to fix as many things as possible at the same time. But it’s impossible. TechSoup Europe’s workshop helped us focus and gave us the courage to make one, big campaign. And we see it’s already working”.