Activists, academics and advocates
gathered at the University of Delaware last week for a two-day
conference that explored issues of violence against women and encouraged
strength in numbers through continued coalition-building.
The conference, “Powerful Partnerships: 20 Years of the Violence
Against Women Act and the Path Ahead,” marked the passage of that
federal legislation two decades ago, as well as two other anniversaries.
The University’s Department of Women and Gender Studies is celebrating its 40th year, while the statewide Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence is marking its 20th anniversary.
On Friday, April 25, the closing day of the conference, Eesha Pandit,
a writer, activist and consultant based in Houston, Texas, delivered a
call to action, urging members of the audience to continue working
together and recognizing their shared goals, even while realizing that
different groups face different issues.
For example, Pandit said, women who are immigrants often face unique
problems, from language and cultural barriers to fear of deportation, in
seeking protection from violence, and low-income survivors need much
more help in finding housing, child care and other social services than
more affluent women usually do.
“Social justice is like a cake,” she said, with many different groups
and issues going into the mix. And the result is not a layer cake,
where each group remains separate, but a combination of ingredients.
“We can’t ignore our identity differences,” Pandit said. “We have to
look at the multiple factors that shape our lives. … Race, gender,
sexuality, citizenship status, poverty, unemployment, disability — they
all shape our experiences and they can limit access to resources” for
survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
“We all live with different realities,” she said, calling on the
audience members to acknowledge those differences while building
coalitions among all groups. “This is how we win — with as many of us as