Since 1978, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has supported survivors of domestic violence through empowerment-based, survivor-centered programming that honors the personal autonomy, power and resiliency of people impacted by violence. These principles are guided by seeing survivors as whole people who are the experts of their own lives. We’re very proud to share with you a report on a W.O.M.A.N., Inc. program that truly captures the essence of these grassroots efforts – this program is called Echando Pa’lante (Moving Forward).
Echando Pa’lante is a survivor-led initiative co-created by women who had gone through W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s Latinx Program (in-depth case management for monolingual Spanish speakers) and the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. team. Initially, Echando Pa’lante provided ongoing engagement and a creative, supportive space for participants post-crisis. The set-up was more open than conventional therapeutic atmospheres which allowed for community building and bonding between the folks partaking in the program. Motivated by the participants’ desire to get more involved, Echando Pa’lante evolved into a program that includes a comprehensive leadership component where the participants who’ve survived abuse and worked towards healing and recovery, are trained to be domestic violence advocates themselves. With the assistance of Montesinos & Associates, we developed an evaluation report through the lens of how survivors define success. This evaluation centers the voices of Las Pioneras (the pioneers), the first participants and steering group of Echando Pa’lante. Below, we’ll provide a brief synopsis of the results, but, when you’re done, we encourage you to read the full report here. In this evaluation, you’ll get to learn more about the inception and progression of Echando Pa’lante, and the impact of this co-created project shaped by the participants who inspired it.
The Echando Pa’lante leadership program was designed with three cycles of activity: 1) Outreach, 2) Art Based Support Group Experience & Training and 3) 40 Hours of Domestic Violence Training. During Module 1, the participants learned about the different aspects of W.O.M.A.N., Inc. programming to prepare them to do outreach in the community. These components included leadership development, public speaking, presentation preparation and developing a language around how to educate folks on the basic dynamics of domestic violence. After completing eight sessions of Outreach
and Education, Las Pioneras moved on to Module 2 where they experienced and learned how to facilitate support groups, peer counseling skill-building, and self-care. One Pionera shared that Module two taught participants how to “recapture the best part of you and rescue it through therapy. They would teach us to appreciate what makes us feel good and not dwell on what is bad…these sessions were designed to bring out what was inside of participants.” Once that process was complete, the participants moved on to Module 3 where they engaged in 40-hour domestic violence training. Las Pioneras are now trained domestic violence advocates supported by the unique expertise of their own lived experiences. Throughout the course of the program participants gradually took on leadership as they decided the direction of the curriculum, looked to identify outreach opportunities and expressed the desire to engage more with W.O.M.A.N., Inc. staff and collaboration on expanding activities.
The first year pilot revealed impacts on individual, programmatic and community levels. Through the process of gaining skills needed to work in the domestic violence field, participants created relationships, rebuilt self-esteem and a more hopeful outlook on their futures. This sense of empowerment was expressed by a Pionera when she shared,
“When my [companeras] come to me, I can direct them to services that are available. I am more confident in myself. That has been really beautiful for me to be able to help others.” Not only did participants rediscover strengths within themselves, they helped cultivate resilience through their friendships with one another. Las Pioneras expressed that they feel more “unified” and that their relationships with one another strengthen them. Along with creating an environment that fosters community building, this evaluation demonstrates how Echando Pa’lante reaffirms “participants as people before they are survivors of domestic violence.” We can see the impact of this when a Pionera is quoted, “I said when we started Echando Pa’lante that we have to remember what we were before all of the violence: we had dreams and aspirations, we had goals. When you go through domestic violence, you can feel like you are a cockroach, your self-esteem is on the ground. So, that is why we need to have value. Echando Pa’lante motivates you to do something.”
Through utilizing this model, we hoped to demonstrate that
“there are strengths in the lives of survivors that can be built upon versus “weaknesses that require uprooting change.” Ultimately the hopes for this program are tied in with a big idea: that anti-domestic violence programs along with the movement they are a part of, have room to share power with those they support and to provide services that are both more culturally responsive and shaped by the participants themselves.
We couldn’t implement this program and we can’t continue to expand this program without the community support of people like you. Help move the Echando Pa’lante program forward, make a donation today!